Shane Black isn’t exactly the best known name in Hollywood and you might be surprised to learn some of his filmography, having written Lethal Weapon, The Long Kiss Goodnight and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang which he also directed along with Iron Man 3, and will next be behind the camera again for the reboot of The Predator in 2018. This time around he’s tackling the 70s, Los Angeles in the 70s to be more specific, where an unlucky private eye Holland March (Ryan Gosling) has to team up with muscle for hire, Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) to investigate the disappearance of a young girl and the death of a porn star.
Ryan Gosling has ventured into comedy before with Crazy, Stupid, Love (and possibly, Lars and the Real Girl and The Big Short depending on your perspective) and it gave a definite sense that he was capable of doing more than just serious indie films, and he’s now cemented that with The Nice Guys. His performance is hilarious, Holland is a good guy deep down but on the surface he’s a drunk mess and it definitely shows but it’s great to watch. There’s pratfalls, screams, mistakes and general crazy behaviour from Gosling and he hits all of it so perfectly that despite his huge background in indie cinema, he seems right at home. His partner in (prevention of) crime, Crowe is another who doesn’t exactly foray into comedy, but he manages to create a delightful love/hate friendship with Gosling and the two clearly work well together. His performance is not exactly perfect, there are moments that feel relatively wooden and staged rather than coming across naturally but it is in a forgiveable amount. The only other person to really talk about for this cast is Angourie Rice who plays Holland’s daughter Holly, who adds onto the chemistry between Gosling and Crowe to make it even better, it would have been easy for this to be a throw away part, a couple of lines but Black has integrated well to the story to actually add something of value. Though for a film about Americans in Los Angeles it’s lead by a Canadian, a New Zealander and an Aussie, yet it still works regardless.
The story is deeply based in comedy and a buddy cop formula, which is Black’s forte and unsurprising but those elements are interwoven with an actually interesting story, it’s not simply a few laughs, it has a significant plot to go with that. The other benefit of that is that it’s not utterly predictable, unlike many films that fall into that trap, it has plenty to offer to keep the audience interested in how things play out. The slight issue the film has is timing, being just under 2 hours, it isn’t exactly a biblical epic but there are several moments throughout where things feel slightly slowed down and it strays toward lagging but this is fairly minimal and doesn’t have too much affect on the film as a whole. Black may have only directed 2 films prior to this but he has clearly learned enough from that experience to put into this one, there’s a fantastic mixture of humour/violence/action/sex/physical comedy and some almost perfect scenes that audiences will definitely remember.
The Nice Guys has some excellent comedy and a great plot which takes our principal actors through a whole heap of mess that’s fun to watch. Gosling and Crowe have a superb partnership going on screen and play off each other extremely well, in a way that audiences will no doubt love. This may not be that film you’ll scream out as your favourite of the year but you’ll definitely enjoy yourself watching it.