Shane Black is no stranger to the buddy cop genre. He wrote the Lethal Weapon movies in the 80’s and then returned to the genre in 2005 when he wrote and directed Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.
With The Nice Guys though, Shane Black has tried to do something different. He’s tried to move past the basicness (if that’s a word) of Lethal Weapon and the convolutedness (again, doubting its a word) of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang by trying to create a film that’s sharp, witty and funny. And I’m happy to say he totally, absolutely succeeds.
Set against the backdrop of a neon-soaked 1977 Los Angeles, The Nice Guys opens with a single father and licensed P.I Holland March (Gosling) hired to investigate the apparent suicide of famous porn star Misty Mountains. As the trail leads him to track down a girl named Amelia, he encounters less licensed and less hands-off private eye Jackson Healey (Russell Crowe) and his brass knuckles, both hired by the young hippie. However, the situation takes a turn for the worse when Amelia vanishes and it becomes apparent that March wasn’t the only party interested. As both men are forced to team up, they prepare take on a world filled with eccentric goons, strippers dressed as mermaids and even a possible government conspiracy.
Fist things first. This movie is HILARIOUS. It’s probably the funniest movie I’ve seen this year because the comedy feels so fresh and for that credit goes to the writing and Black’s penchant for sharp, natural and funny dialogue. It feels like this movie could so easily have been a convulated mess, but there’s such a degree of focus in the script that keeps the various sub-plots tightly woven and I think the movie also doesn’t attempt to bite off more than it can chew like so many detective neo-noirs which complicate themselves in a myriad of sub-plots.
This movie is everything I wanted Inherent Vice to be.
But though, the writing is definitely a big draw, ultimately, it’s the fantastic chemistry between Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe that makes this movie what it is. They play off each other so well. Both of them are really good.
Crowe plays it straight as Jackson Healy, a guy who basically breaks arms for cash. But his performance works because he’s able to inject some great deadpan humor into his performance, which for me elevated it. He reminded me of Crowe’s own performance as Bud White in Curtis Hanson’s L.A Confidential. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bud was Healy’s father.
And Ryan Gosling gives I think his most funniest and memorable performance in years as a supposedly inept private investigator Holland March. Of course, the two performances wouldn’t work without the other but Gosling is just better. The physical comedy deserves a mention of it’s own but apart from that, he’s able to craft a genuinely endearing character and his performance feels so natural and so authentic, it kinda surprised me.
And I think a degree of credit also goes to Angourie Rice who plays Gosling’s daughter Holly March and is actually pretty charming given her substantial screen-time and the fact that she’s a child actor.
The Nice Guys fucking rocks. You can’t not have a great time watching the unlikely duo (is there any other kind in a Shane Black movie?) of Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling play off each other and the film also happens to be really fun and entertaining. One of the best of year for me, easily.