While writer/director Shane Black had a huge success with Iron Man 3, The Nice Guys takes him back to what he does best – crime thrillers with a dash of noir and plenty of comedy. This time around, the writer of Lethal Weapon and director of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang takes us to the 1970s with The Nice Guys.
Holland March (Ryan Gosling) is a private eye. He’s also a functioning alcoholic trying to be a single parent to his daughter. He accidentally gets involved with enforcer Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe), after Holland’s case looking into the apparent suicide of a porn star called Misty Mountains crosses paths with Healy’s job involving a missing young woman called Amelia.
Despite getting off to a bad start – Jackson breaks Holland’s arm – they soon form an odd couple team to try to track down Amelia and work out how she is linked to Misty’s death – assuming Misty really is dead, as her aunt insists she saw her alive after she’s supposed to have killed herself. However, what starts out as a relatively simple case soon becomes increasingly complex, as they delve deeper into a seedy world and dodge a growing band of goons who want them dead.
As with many other films Black’s been involved with, The Nice Guys has a decent story, but what makes it stand out is the style and humour. The film doesn’t hide the fact that it’s over the top and tips towards the absurd, including giant insects smoking cigarettes and an odd fascination with The Waltons (both of which make sense in context).
The film also relies on a great chemistry between Gosling and Crowe, who seem to be having great fun. Jackson and Holland are both a complete shambles, barely hanging on but convinced they might be capable of more than they’ve achieved. They are a massively mismatched pair, but the film finds a large amount of humour in that, managing to keep the viewer smiling most of the way through. There’s also Angourie Rice as Holland’s older-than-her-years daughter. She’s great, managing to seem naïve enough to genuinely be a child, but also increasingly intrigued by the dangerous and very adult world her father is involved with.
There’s certainly a lot of fun to be had, with a film that’s silly, entertaining, absurd, fast-paced and absolutely determined to entertain. In one of the featurettes that’s included on the Blu-ray, Shane Black talks about the balance that needed to be struck between the various different elements. It’s clear that it’s a tough to get things right, as The Nice Guys could have easily gone too far and become ridiculous, or its violence could have begun to seem nasty rather than almost comic-book in nature. However, it manages to strike the right tone all the way through, which is no mean feat, resulting in a film that’s one of the most entertaining of the year.
Overall Verdict: Sometimes silly, sometimes very dark but always very entertaining, The Nice Guys mixes actors having a lot of fun with a writer/director with a unique talent for this sort of crime thriller comedy.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac