The Nice Guys

2016/ USA

Director: Shane Black

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe, Angourie Rice, Kim Basinger, Keith David, Beau Knapp, Yaya DaCosta, Margaret Qualley

Words: N. Scatcherd

Los Angeles, 1977. The mysterious death of a porn actress and the subsequent search for a young girl bring together two very different Private Investigators: hapless drunk Holland March (Ryan Gosling) and steely bruiser Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe). Mismatched they may be, but in time-honoured buddy movie style – a style director Shane Black was instrumental in popularising back in 1987 when he wrote Lethal Weapon – the two somehow make a semi-capable duo as they stumble through a case involving porn, air pollution, government conspiracy and a giant, talking bumblebee.

Black has always had a real knack for witty, rapid-fire dialogue and that’s his biggest strength again here. What The Nice Guys sometimes lacks in plot (there are a lot of contrivances and lucky coincidences going on here), it more than makes up for with freewheeling charm. It helps that it’s just funny – Gosling giving the movie some of its biggest laughs, displaying a gift for physical comedy I don’t remember seeing him utilise in anything else he’s done – and he and Crowe have great chemistry. Angourie Rice is also a revelation as March’s smart, tough thirteen year old daughter Holly. The film has a lot of fun with its setting, relishing in a tongue in cheek depiction of a 70s America filled with smog, sex, gaudy suits, flash cars and marijuana (and Richard Nixon even appears in one of the film’s more surreal moments).  

As previously mentioned, the plot itself is shaky at points, sometimes feeling like it’s trying a little too hard to bring a few seemingly disparate strands together into something coherent, often sacrificing believability for the sake of a laugh, in a way which occasionally pulled me out of the film. Of course I’m talking personally here, and maybe logical plausibility should sometimes be secondary to tone. On that front, The Nice Guys delivers, carrying itself along nicely enough on its performances and dialogue that the overall sum outweighs some occasionally shaky components.