The Nice Guys

The Nice Guys ★★★½

At this point, Shane Black might as well trademark the buddy action comedy. He established himself with his screenplays for the first two installments of the genre-defining Lethal Weapon series, furthered himself with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, now as a director as well, and he now cements himself as a master with The Nice Guys, an ultra retro buddy cop movie with an irresistible amount of charm.

Black's duo this time around is the pairing of Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, involved in a series of mysterious killings all linked with the adult film industry in 1970s Los Angeles. The two couldn't be more unalike: Jackson Healy (Crowe) is an enforcer with a heavy emphasis on physicality, while Holland March (Gosling) is a down-on-his-luck P.I. who makes up for his lesser wit and drinking habit with an impeccable sense of coincidence. Together, their differences allow for 116 minutes of wacky crime-solving hijinks with two absolutely delightful personalities. Black obviously deserves a lot of credit for crafting these two characters, but Crowe and Gosling bring them to life in the best way possible. Crowe's comedic timing is on point for someone not known for doing lots of comedy, and Gosling channels his inner Costello with lots of physical comedy for his character's constant fumbling and bumbling. Together, the two share the same kind of chemistry Black is so well known for creating, constantly riffing off of one another and producing countless gut-busting moments of hilarity that are sure to add them to the buddy movie hall of fame.

They are often grouped with a third member, March's 13-year-old daughter Holly, played by newcomer Angourie Rice with a kind of maturity so rarely seen by actors of her age. It's a kind of role that could easily come off as bratty or obnoxious, but Rice actually manages to be helpful in all of the ensuing chaos of the mystery while maintaining a pleasant presence. Poor Holly often finds herself in over-her-head, allowing Black to offer up a lot of dark comedy to complement this story. Black is a master of visual gags this time around: little things like a car careening down a slope in the background of a boy ogling a porn magazine, or a grunt being tossed off the upper floor of a hotel as the leads quietly ride down an elevator are pretty morbid, but can't help but elicit a chuckle. He makes it a habit to take standard tropes of the genre, like Chekov's gun or plot armor, and subverts them in a way that feels so refreshing and stands out among other stories with this same story formula. Shane Black has truly mastered his sense of directing with The Nice Guys, a film that definitely shouldn't be missed.

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