REVIEW — “The Nice Guys”
By pairing an odd-couple of charismatic leads with rhythmic dialogue and a crackerjack script, Shane Black juggles multiple genres with his hilarious retro, slapstick, noir, buddy-comedy The Nice Guys.
Writer/director Shane Black follows the same successful formula that worked well for his similarly penned action/comedies (more so Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang than Lethal Weapon) while peppering in the lunacy of the Coen Brothers and the period aesthetic favored by Paul Thomas Anderson.
Transporting the audience back in time with a retro Warner Bros. logo and The Temptations’ “Papa was a Rolling Stone,” The Nice Guys takes place in seedy, rundown 1977 Los Angeles – a cesspool of smut, filth and corruption. Overlooked by a symbolically dilapidated Hollywood sign, the city’s glamour has tarnished as it weathers gas shortages, smog pollution, and the threat of Brazilian killer bees.
As heavyset private eye, Jackson Healy, Russell Crowe portrays a brass-knuckled, Irish enforcer who gets paid to beat people up. When Healy knocks on a door and asks, “Are you the man?” he lets his fist do the answering.
Ryan Gosling plays Holland March, an accident-prone, alcoholic, gumshoe who lacks his sense of smell – the irony being that unlike a good bloodhound, he cannot sniff out clues. He is also a single dad to spunky tweenage daughter, Holly (Angourie Rice) – a junior sleuth in her own right and delightful foil to both men.
Hired for protection by an on-the-run Amelia (Margaret Qualley), Healy’s path leads him to March – who is on Amelia’s trail as a person of interest in a separate investigation. After a violent first meeting, the two men discover they need each other to solve their respective cases.
As they cruise L.A., the duo cross paths with thugs, pornstars, dead bodies and dipshit “projectionalists” named Chet (Jack Kilmer). Their unravelling murder mystery leads them through disco orgies, hotel bloodbaths and City Hall – all while hired assassin, John Boy (a chilling Matt Bomer) hunts them down.
Together, Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe deliver Abbott & Costello-caliber comedic timing. One minute they’re cracking skulls and the next they’re throwing up in the bushes. They’re tough guys, but also smart enough to run away from a fight. Their dynamic chemistry forms a powerful comedic bromance that would only strengthen in multiple films. Hopefully, a Nice Guys franchise is on the way. I’d cheers to that! 4/5