Initially reluctant peers Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) and Holland March (Ryan Gosling) find themselves up to their handsome ears in the search, going toe to toe with hitmen, thugs and various nefarious types, all while trading pithy quips across various glossy 1970s Los Angeles backdrops. With Holland’s feisty daughter often in tow the pair piece together a typically elaborate and convoluted plot filled with intrigue and surprise.
The action zigs and zags across various glamourous locations, and the exposition never stops – to the point where we occasionally have too much info – and the film makes full use of the rarely maximised MA rating. In pandering to the ‘just shaving’ crowd, it would appear that us genuine adults have been relegated to the sideline. Not here. You might need a slightly strong stomach and an ability to take some salty dialogue, but The Nice Guys is the funniest film I have seen this year.
The casting is perfect. Russell Crowe hasn’t been an actual thing since last decade, but he looks as if he is enjoying himself here, especially in the crackling scenes where he and Gosling swap zingers. Speaking of Gosling, he too refuses to let his pretty looks do the work. In fact he actually manages to come across as a bit of a loser at times. I knew he could do funny, I didn’t know that he could do this funny.
As both a writer and director Shane Black has been uniting mismatched parts for a thirty years, beginning with Lethal Weapon (and The Last Boy Scout, The Long Kiss Goodnight, and Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang). The end result is almost uniformly absurdly entertaining and occasionally breathtaking. With The Nice Guys he has done it again, and somehow no-one other than critics have noticed.
The Shane Black traits are here and will be welcomed by those who enjoyed the hyperlinked titles above; wall to wall quips, unexpected twists, invisible cops who only show up as the credits roll, seemingly pointless comments that almost always pay off later in the film, and lashings of very adult black humour. Only classic Tarantino could make acts of physical violence so very awkwardly hilarious.
It is these familiar ingredients that provide much of the entertainment value that is in abundance, but the same familiarity that prevents me from bestowing ‘greatness’ upon this film. Just know that if you are an adult with a sense of humour, you will find much to admire in The Nice Guys…
Final Rating – 8 / 10. Rough edged and razor sharp, in an ideal world there would be a dozen films like The Nice Guys each year.