There was a time, in the 80s’ and 90s’, where Shane Black reigned as one the highest-paid writers in Hollywood by making buddy action-comedies his bread and butter. After a decade hiatus, the Iron Man 3 director has returned to what he loves most in The Nice Guys starring Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe.
Those who had fond memories of Lethal Weapon, Lethal Weapon 2, The Last Boy Scout, Last Action Hero and The Long Kiss Goodnight will rejoice. The Nice Guys is a throwback to the buddy-cop films of yesteryear. In a world where the genre has taken on new cliches – it’s far more serious and the heroes have superpowers – this film feels fresh, even if it really isn’t.
As the film’s tagline suggests The Nice Guys are “not so nice”. It’s 1977 Los Angeles and a pornstar named Misty Mountains has died in a bizarre car crash. Two days later her grandmother tasks a dodgy licensed private investigator Holland March (Ryan Gosling) to find her. Not one to turn down a paycheck, he agrees to go searching for the dead girl. It’s not long after that the trail leads him into the hands of a heavy for hire, Jackson Healey (Russell Crowe). Their first encounter is unpleasant, but they soon learn that they need each other to solve the mystery regarding Misty’s death. Of course, it all leads fights with mobs, corrupt police officers, and sleazeballs from the porn industry.
With inklings of a pulp-like detective story, Nice Guys is a film you can enjoy but doesn’t completely satisfy. It struggles to find it’s footing in the early stages of the film, but eventually moves on to laughs and fun. Most of that fun and laughter comes at the hand of Gosling (the real revelation of the film), who is remarkable as the goofy private eye without a clue. Unlike his more serious roles, here he does his best to channel a more comedic actor (like Steve Carell). And it works, very well. Playing off a more hardcore Crowe, he is given free reign to flex his acting muscles and be the comic relief. Surprisingly, the pair make a winning team.
The story might be a little uneven, but the characters are so much fun.