Billy Steele’s review published on Letterboxd:
Black Brings In His Lethal Weapons For Third Directorial Feature.
In what could be described as Inherent Vice meets Starsky & Hutch, Shane Black’s latest sees a return to form for Russell Crowe and a confirmation of Ryan Gosling’s comedic aptitude. The Nice Guys, an original story but a satire of countless products of its kind, blends excellently timed slapstick humour with goofball dialogue, outrageous scenarios and over the top action, resulting in a throwback to the movements of yesteryear, as well as adding some contemporary flair to spice things up.
Playing off the buddy cop dynamic that Black pioneered in one way or another, his latest leading pair provide marvellous chemistry and contrasting energy, resulting in a refreshing fixation on their galavanting, violent and idiotic escapades.
The Nice Guys is an absolute treat for those you dig a little bit of 70’s campy action style but has enough charm and endearment to spread to wider crowds of various maturer demographics.
A plot involving a supposedly deceased adult film star, a secret movie and a missing girl sees fists-for-hire enforcer Jackson Healey (Crowe) and inept private eye Holland March (Gosling) join forces and set off on a wild and invigorating investigation. In the pursuit of the film star and any clues they can find, the pair are subject to gunslinging maniacs, seductive actresses and all-round chaos as they narrowly navigate through the mean streets of Detroit.
Along for the ride (and mostly behind the wheel) is March’s young daughter Holly (Angourie Rice), whose general competence seems to balance out what her father severely lacks.
Unlike a film such as Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, the “un-filmable” adaptation of the novel Thomas Pynchon; a film that captures the 70’s style, sheen and groove in a nutshell, The Nice Guys, whilst possessing a similarly naturalistic but exaggerated look, has a convoluted, multilayered narrative that actually makes sense.
Not overly self-indulgent or self-important, the film possesses an almost self-aware charm that dampens the otherwise confusing and even dark themes at play.
Through particular moments in discourse, characters will try and wrap their head around the plot, only to spurt out something that’s not quite right. The audience is always kept up to speed, but not in a patronising fashion.
The balance of guidance and trust is achieved very well, resulting in the experience being far more enjoyable than P.T. Anderson’s aforementioned labyrinth of a narrative.
In saying this however, while the pacing of The Nice Guys is sound and consistent throughout its runtime, certain fluctuations in tone are rather questionable and jarring.
The writing, fashion, music, dialogue and overall craft of the film establishes a world of chaos and mayhem, however it always has a grounded, relaxed undercurrent to remind us that we’re watching a comedy. When the pair are asking about a boy who burned to death, or a wild car crash occurs, it doesn’t hit the audience emotionally or in a shocking manner, it’s not supposed to in a film such as this.But when somebody violently assassinates a group of henchmen in an ultra-violent fashion, a character is given an ultimatum as they’re about to brutally murder a victim, or something far worse and unexpected occurs, the dark tonal shift makes it very difficult to recapture the lighter comedic essence of the film.
If the darker elements were altered to be ever so slightly campier and lighthearted, it would’ve allowed for a more engaging consistency, therefore sprouting a few more laughs in the process.
Aside from a few lapses in tone and perhaps a questionably shoehorned antagonist, The Nice Guys has an abundance of qualities to offer, most notably the infectious chemistry between the leading pair.
While it’s wonderful to see Crowe undertake a comedic straight-guy role that allows for some moments in the spotlight, Gosling keeps his ball rolling, and with his broken arm, he not only provides some excellent laughs and ongoing gags, he shows exactly why he was perfectly… cast.
With the addition of Rice’s Holly in the superbly utilised younger supporting role and some moments that make it impossible to contain the laughter, The Nice Guys is a great pick for an edgier, satirical action romp that showcases some excellent performances, writing and Shane Black directorial charm.