The Nice Guys
Director: Shane Black
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Keith David, Beau Knapp, and Kim Basinger
The beginning musical notes and title font of director Shane Black’s crime-noir-comedy “The Nice Guys” lets the viewer know we are taking a trip back to the 1970’s. The nostalgia of the era, the film takes place specifically in 1977, flows through every frame as Mr. Black fully presents his love for noir detective procedurals and buddy cop films. “The Nice Guys” is a rather funny comedy with crime-noir elements strung throughout. It’s a none-to-serious film, slapstick and silliness with high amounts of violence, which works remarkably well because of the commitment of the fabulous cast, Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe, and Angourie Rice. Director Shane Black has crafted an entertaining comedy that plays the 1970’s era in all its nostalgic glory for a good-natured, adult laugh.
Private investigator Holland March (Ryan Gosling) is examining the case of the apparent suicide of a famous porn star. March is a single father to a young girl named Holly (Angourie Rice); the two have a strained yet loving relationship with one another. Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) is a punch first, ask questions later private eye who crosses paths, brass knuckles on hand, with March; the two agree to work together to find a girl named Amelia who recently went missing. The case leads the two men into a dangerous situation with political powers, mobsters, and a hitman.
There is a crime afoot in “The Nice Guys”, one that leads the team of March and Healy on a wild goose chase of sorts throughout Los Angeles. The era specific details of the costumes and locations provides for some entertaining moments, like a party with a digital “Earth, Wind, and Fire” providing on-stage entertainment. The blending of these historical pieces into the structure of the film is achieved quite nicely. While the film details the crime of a murdered porn star, a political conspiracy, and a case of mistaken identity, these themes never move into any significant dramatic territory because the film rarely ventures far from the comedic tone it establishes. While it may not feel like other retro-noir films like the serious and dramatic “L.A. Confidential” or the clever and bizarre “Inherent Vice”, “The Nice Guys” delivers a polished comedy that pulls distinguishable elements from crime and noir films. There are a few times when the story doesn’t live up to the execution that composes it, for all the era rendering and attention to detail the narrative never comes around to being all that engrossing but instead exists as a vehicle to watch great actors compose great characters.
Mr. Black establishes great chemistry within his characters in this film; Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe play off each other quite well. They are the quintessential embodiment of the phrase “we can do this the easy way or the hard way”. Mr. Crowe and his grouchy, grumpy Jackson Healy prefers the hard way, usually a fist to the face of degenerates he has been hired to hurt or, in the case of his would-be partner, a broken arm and bloody nose. Ryan Gosling and his laid-back, sometimes sleazy, mostly bumbling Holland March prefers the easy way, usually a half-hearted investigation to gather just enough information to swindle old women out of more cash to find their loved ones. However opposite once these two characters get together they accommodate one another, Mr. Crowe and Mr. Gosling are easily one of the most entertaining duos on-screen in some time. However, while these two actors are great it’s the relationship of Holland March and his daughter Holly that offers the most balanced heart and humor. Angourie Rice plays Holly naïve and inquisitive, a young woman who is more similar to her father than she’d like to let on. Whether her sneaking along on an investigation to an adult entertainment party or applying her father’s blundering investigation strategies into her own skillset, young Ms. Rice holds her own very well.
Director Shane Black understands this genre; one should watch his exceptional neo-noir film from 2005 “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” for proof. “The Nice Guys” utilizes the 1970’s era to build an interesting atmosphere to accommodate the comedic structure, while the narrative is somewhat underwhelming Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe are worth the price of admission. “The Nice Guys” is an enjoyable film, definitely one of the funniest of the year so far.
4.00 out of 5.00