The Nice Guys is another gem from director Shane Black, delivering a sleazy buddy comedy with a kid thrown into the mix for good measure.
It all starts with a porn star. Driving down the Hollywood Hills, not the road mind you, and, long story short she ends up dead. This will be the first of many dead bodies, which end up getting a pair of private detective types thrown together and into the middle of this mess. Jackson Healy is a rough and tumble type, ready to punch just about anyone for the right price. Holland March is a more official private eye type, but the booze keeps him mostly capable of hustling small time clients. March’s daughter, Holly, wants to help as well and the three of them quickly dive into the underbelly of the 70’s porn scene in search for a girl, Amelia.
A twisty detective tale, the plot might not be redefining the genre, but Black is constantly peppering every beat with his style. Black’s directorial efforts have him at three for three after The Nice Guys, delivering basically the same level of quality across the board. I’m not quite ready to label The Nice Guys as a better film than Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, that film’s script seems a bit wittier, but Black’s latest is just as entertaining from start to finish as Band and Iron Man 3. Black’s visual style continues to grow with each film, The Nice Guys being his best looking film, even against the mega budget of IM3. Black and his team lovingly bring the late 70’s period to life, with the party scene in the middle of the film particularly bringing the era to life. His action beats are a bit more modest here than IM3, obviously, but they are just as fun and inventive as his other works. The guy understands that the geography of a set piece allows for a lot of room for playful inventiveness and while there is plenty of guns blazing, the best parts of the action are the circumstances of the characters’ surroundings.
The cast is also excellent, with Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe delivering their best comedic work to date. Now, some of you might think that is a low bar for those guys to get over, but their performances will easily go down as two of the year’s best comedic turns. Crowe in particular really stands out with his comedic chops, never going over the top and never losing his brutal edge, but he still easily carries his share of the laughs. Gosling is going for the bigger performance of the two, and he mostly makes it work. There are a couple of really silly moments for him, I dug them, but I could definitely see some audiences not able to roll with him. Gosling also puts on a show of how to act drunk, giving March a dangerous wrinkle to his already slime ball nature. Angourie Rice works well against the two male leads, playing Gosling’s daughter who knows more than she probably should for a girl her age. Sure, it makes little to no sense she is in the movie most of the time, but Black makes her likable and you will most likely just roll with her being around. Matt Bomer also shows up fairly late in the film, and he delivers a crazy eyed performance that sells us on his character’s reputation in a matter of seconds.
The Nice Guys’ is pure entertainment from Shane Black, and we shouldn’t expect anything less at this point in his career. Crowe and Gosling are fantastic, playing wonderfully off one another as Black sends them on a windy road to maybe nowhere. Plenty of laughs, fun set pieces and lots of surprises are waiting for you with The Nice Guys, which will surely be one of the year’s best when things are all said and done.