Shane Black’s stylish 1970’s buddy cop-esque film, The Nice Guys, is a complete mess from start to finish — but don’t get me wrong, I mean that in the best possible way. A fast-paced movie full of action, intrigue and crime, The Nice Guys features the very odd yet comical pairing of Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, which might seem dicey on paper but excels tenfold. It’s also a clever comedy, unlike the stupid and unfunny comedies the world is getting used to with the help from Adam Sandler, which is refreshing.
Set in L.A. in 1977, The Nice Guys is the story of two private investigators: Holland March (Ryan Gosling), a lazy, scheming, yet surprisingly smart alcoholic, and Jackson Healey (Russell Crowe), a brutish type who serves more as a privately hired thug than a PI. The two are forced to team up when March’s investigation into the murder of a porn star leads him to cross paths with runaway hippie Amelia (Margaret Qualley), who Healey was being paid to protect; once Amelia goes missing, however, the two discover that there may be more to this story than they thought. With March’s incredibly wise pre-teen daughter Holly (Angourie Rice) along for the ride, they’re soon thrown into the middle of a possible government cover-up, the 1970s porn industry, and a wild goose chase to find Amelia.
There’s a lot to enjoy here, including the fact that this movie is dripping with 1970s style. There are plenty of neon signs, bold colors and retro fashion to go around. It’s immersed in the Boogie Nights world of drugs and porn, and has the ridiculous hair and outfits to match. Some could say that The Nice Guys is more style than substance, but I find it’s a joy to watch the complicated and intricate screenplay unfold. It’s full of that classic ridiculousness Shane Black brought to the likes of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang: you often find yourself giggling at how inept March and Healey can be, and laughing out loud at each situation they get themselves into. It’s a perfect blend of action and comedy.
That said, the most enjoyable thing here is the chemistry between Gosling and Crowe, an unlikely yet perfect pair. This is complemented by the strength of their individual roles, as this might even be my favorite performance by Ryan Gosling. His Holland March is such a mess, a washed-out PI who spends most of his time scamming old women and drinking. He’s like a terrified little kitten every time there’s trouble, which is the majority of the movie, and Gosling, who has some serious comedic chops, plays it all perfectly. Crowe’s Healey, as the brawn, is a good balance for March’s chaotic mess. Crowe spends much of the movie slowly but skilfully revealing that there’s a good heart underneath that muscle. Whereas March is along for the money or because his daughter guilt-tripped him into it, Healey wants to help save the day and find Amelia, and you can feel that emotion pouring out of the screen. Speaking of March’s daughter, Gosling and Crowe are in serious danger of having the whole show stolen from them by 14-year-old Angourie Rice. She plays Holly like a fearless 1970’s Nancy Drew, with the potential to be a better PI than her father as she constantly sneaks around with her elders and does more work than she lets on. It’s a wonderful performance by the newcomer, and rounds out what makes for an improbable but workable sleuthing team.
This is such an oddball movie. It’s ridiculous and it knows it. I feel the director, actors and even the set designers are openly making fun of it, which is so amusing to watch. It’s also deftly made, as it shifts from comedy to action to satire to slapstick to maybe even neo-noir, and it does it all effortlessly. The result is an insanely fun and hilarious movie from start to finish. If you are a fan of Shane Black — or, more accurately, a fan of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang — you should really give The Nice Guys a shot.
The Nice Guys landed at #162 out of a possible 1346 movie on my Flickchart. That converts to a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars or 88%. It is ranked #29 out of 268 movies I have seen from the 2010’s. It is ranked #5 out of 10 movies I have seen so far in this challenge.