Wesley R. Ball’s review published on Letterboxd:
Sweetheart, how many times have I told you? Don't say 'and stuff.' Just say 'Dad, there are whores here.'
I'll admit, I didn't have high hopes for The Nice Guys at first. For one, I didn't care for Iron Man 3 in the slightest (I'll never understand why so many people love it so much, I found it to be a complete mess), and the poster and title especially just really turned me off. After a few trailers, however, I began to warm up to it, and I figured that it could be a really nice mystery film. While it's certainly not as good as it could have been, The Nice Guys is a decent film with some great laughs along the way.
The thing I loved most about this was that it was a heartfelt tribute to such classic investigative thrillers of the 60's and 70's like Bullitt and The French Connection. It's clear that Black was heavily influenced by these films growing up, as the best bits all show up while being mixed in with a dash of his own signature style of witty writing. There were times when the dialogue felt a little worn, such as repeated jokes that didn't deliver as well the second time, but the classic noirish crime story was too good for it to really bother me. This film basically embodies everything I love about classic crime films of its period, and the end result proved to be much better than I had originally expected.
Russell Crowe is clearly aging, perhaps a little too much to pass off as a convincingly menacing tough guy. He's certainly put on weight, but it's entirely possible that this was part of his character. I'm not saying he was bad in this film at all, but I could definitely tell that he's starting to get a bit old for roles like this. Ryan Gosling takes a surprisingly hilarious turn as "the world's worst detective," and he completely stole the show for me. He has some really hilarious and over-the-top moments that worked much better than most modern slapstick comedies do. His ineptitude is what really drives the film's comedic points, instead of repetition that Black tries to insert into his dialogue. Perhaps if the film had chosen to focus more on Gosling's character's strong points instead of relaying the same comedic moments again, the comedy as a whole would have worked a bit better.
As funny as I found it to be, I'm afraid that The Nice Guys wouldn't hold up for me as well on a rewatch. The homage elements of the story are fantastic, no doubt, but the comedy is something I feel wouldn't last as long with me as I'd like. I could be wrong, but a lot of times, for me, comedies wear out on me over time. Maybe after a few months, if I were to revisit it, it would still hold up as well, but in general I have serious doubts about it. Black's dialogue is witty, for the most part, but there were times when I felt a little revising of his script could have gone a long way. Some clumsy moments in the story felt more like MacGuffins instead of meaningful segments, but these parts, fortunately, are few and far between.
In the end, The Nice Guys is a great homage to classic mystery films that is coated in Shane Black's signature comedic dialogue. The unlikely duo Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe have some great chemistry that genuinely surprised me, with Gosling being the real driving force behind the film's best comedic bits. I'm a huge fan of the film's 70's mystery plot that feels like it came right out of the era. I wouldn't be surprised if a 35mm print turned up around my local art house theater anytime soon, and you would bet that I would be one of the first people to go see it. This is a film that is prime for that format, as the film itself genuinely feels like it came out of that era. Black does a great job at containing the nostalgic feel for this period, and despite some plot conveniences and hit-or-miss comedic timings, this tribute delivers its package very well. It's a genuinely fun fare that may or may not hold up again on a rewatch, but undoubtedly fun on its first run.