The Nice Guys

The Nice Guys ★★★★½

Shane Black has made no secret of his love for pulpy detective/"tough guy" stories, and I love how "The Nice Guys" simultaneously feels like both a love letter and an indictment of the genre. Our leads are men being men, yet the film also shows that men being men can result in men being very stupid. Sex is constantly put on display, but also, how messed up it is that the porn industry winds up being the only place some girls feel noticed? The culture of 70s Los Angeles is brought back in fun, nostalgic ways, but there's no forgetting how dirty the city was at the time. Healy/March curse up a storm and punch anybody who crosses their path, but when they go home, we're reminded of just how sad and defeating that kind of a lifestyle can be.

This back-and-forth is where Black reaps most of the comedy, and the way Black has these characters bounce off each other along this twisty plot is a big warm hug of hilarity. The chemistry between Russell Crowe/Ryan Gosling/Angourie Rice (who I'm including because, as far as I'm concerned, she's the heart and soul of the film) is an endless treasure trove of laughs, but there's also a real sweetness to their relationship. Healy/March's cynicism clashing with Holly's optimism seems pretty representative of the film itself: amidst all the murder and corruption, there's the belief that even the most broken people in a broken world can do good.

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