You’re the world’s worst detective.
I had the pleasure of viewing Shane Black’s The Nice Guys, starring Russell Crowe as debt collector Jack Healy and Ryan Gosling as private investigator Holland March, earlier today, and I’m happy to report that it lived up to my lofty expectations, this film is fantastically fun. As a massive fan of Black’s previous film Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and of Crowe’s and Gosling’s previous acting work (Gladiator remains to this day one of my favorite films), I was greatly anticipating this film. I love noir films and have always enjoyed a good detective yarn. Thankfully, The Nice Guys combines all of those elements I relish in a total package that delivers laughs, great lead performances, interesting character dynamics, cool action, and a fun noir-filled twisty story.
The Nice Guys is a film about a PI, played by Gosling, and a “debt collector with aspirations”, as described by Crowe at the Cannes premiere press conference, played by Crowe, who team up to search for a missing young woman named Amelia, who might be involved in a twisted dangerous tale of pornography, hit-men, the mob, the government, and the automobile industry. And so, March and Healy, along with March’s daughter (who is never pretentious or annoying and is just the right amount of precocious) named Holly (played authentically and wonderfully by Angourie Rice), follow the mystery and twisted plot in their search for Amelia and the secrets she holds in 1977 Los Angeles. These two investigators are in over their head, and unlike other Shane Black films, both of the lead characters are both fuck ups. They are good at what they do, but probably not the best, and their entertaining dynamic drives the film’s humor and heart all within a fun noir aesthetic.
The film is full of positives, from the wonderful chemistry between Gosling and Crowe, the incredible dialogue (one of Black’s staples), the father-daughter relationship, some very funny physical comedy bits, and the character revelations that are slowly revealed throughout the film’s runtime adds a wonderful dramatic through-line to the humorous adventure of these two opposing characters learning to work together. Also, the 70s setting is wonderful to behold. From the gasoline crisis references, the smog pollution, a Jaws 2 reference(!), this film just feels like the 70s. The production crew perfectly encapsulated the look, style and feel of the 70s in this wonderful film.
Ultimately, like many of Black’s previous works and many great buddy films, this movie relies on the strengths of its two main leads, where in the film’s soul lies. These characters start off on the wrong foot (or, in this case, broken arm) and they grow over the course of the two hours runtime to find a fun partnership and friendship in each other. They evolve, they learn from each other, they deal with their demons and violence and alcoholism, and ultimately they find their humanity.
I could go on singing praise of this great original film. Although it has many of the characteristics of other buddy movies, this one is created so lovingly and is so incredibly acted, from Matt Bomer to Keith David, and particularly Gosling and Crowe who give fully realized performances, with lovable characters, great comedy scenes, fun action, and has a twisty neo-noir style. Everything in this film is crafted so well, besides a few jokes that feel a little out of place in our more politically correct present, and it is so entertaining I can’t help but love this film. If you are in the mood for something different, something original during this summer of franchises, please see The Nice Guys, trust me, it’s worth it.