Amidst a cocktail of cigarette smoke, booze, Yoo-hoo, blood, morality and slapstick, we find The Nice Guys—Shane Black’s latest Los Angeles crime yarn, set in the late 70s, about a duo of investigative idiots following the trail of a missing girl to discover both conspiracy and corruption.
Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe), a ruffian hired to beat up the baddies for money, and Holland March (Ryan Gosling), a simple yet well-meaning private investigator, team up after crossing paths based on mutual case interest. Healy and March’s pursuits lead them on the path of a typical private dick procedural, but you must forgive me if I failed to realize there was an intricate plot occurring, since I spent the majority of the runtime laughing so consistently and violently that I feared I’d eventually rupture an internal organ.
The Nice Guys is not just funny, but uproariously so, filling its always entertaining moments with simultaneous action, adventure, antics and audacity. Akin to 2014’s Inherent Vice, and so many detective tales before, we’re following the “professional” actions of those with good intentions, burdened by their own insecurities, substance abuse, ethical conflict and everything in between. Much of the investigation details are handed to our characters through sheer happenstance as they bumble around, March hammered down by being hammered most of the time, and Healy weighed down by his own gut (boy, do I love Fat Russell) and March’s persistent flubs (the character falls from a considerable distance on two occasions, both leading to discoveries that further enhance the case).
Together, you could call the duo Fatty and Drunk, and they’re a miraculously realized pair. Crowe and Gosling burst with a high caliber of cinematic chemistry, their respective line delivery and physical acting boasting more than a handful of career-heightening moments. Try not to cry laughing at Gosling’s silent fear during a crucial moment in an elevator, his eye twitching and entire body trembling. Try not to chortle at Crowe’s character-defining voiceover line, “Marriage is buying a house for somebody you hate. Remember that.” Try not to be both tickled and tensed up during a climactic chase and shoot-out that’s equally riddled with slapstick and suspense. The entire film carries such zany energy that never gives up, with a heart and conscience to tie it all together—a screwball mystery with a morality clause.
One could argue Shane Black’s career as repetitive, but when you’re churning out features like The Nice Guys, it’s hard to pinpoint any issues with the redundancies. I adored this film—every uninhabited, wacky, delightful and sidesplitting moment of it—and I’d champion it as one of Shane Black’s best (it’s certainly my favorite of his scripts, co-written with first time screenwriter Anthony Bagarozzi). A remarkable eye for detail in his settings, Black captures Los Angeles, per usual, as a character in and of itself. And as for Crowe and Gosling, Black zeroes in on what’s best about the two actors, and highlights their chemistry with playful precision. I’d give anything to see this trio work together again. It is sheer unadulterated joy to watch everything fall into place, as so occurs with The Nice Guys.
I can’t wait to see it again, but just as soon as I catch my breath. I’m still laughing.
Director: Shane Black
Film Length: 116 minutes
Release Date: May 20, 2016
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
- Score - 9.5/109.5/10