The Nice Guys

The Nice Guys ★★★★

My first Shane Black film. Word is he's made this film before, but if that's the case, he seems to have nailed the recipe here: take a pair of doofus flatfoots (well one flatfoot and one bruiser-for-hire) throw em together in a Lebowski-inspired missing-girl-quest and shake liberally. The result is a tasty light cocktail of amusing banter, period detail (anyone for Pong?) and lots of shattering glass. It's a spin on the old buddy cop formula that proves there's still some mileage in it.

I wouldn't have pegged Ryan Gosling or Russel Crowe as comedy actors but they're both on form, giving Black and Bagarozzi's zingy dialogue just the kind of deadpan delivery it needs and there's palpable chemistry between them. I could see other actors in the roles, especially Nic Cage as Holland March, but not sure he'd have done any better. Crazier for sure, but Gosling's slapstick physicality is great and he provides a nice mix of world weary resignation, blithe optimism and lovable cretinism - "You know who else was just following orders? Hitler!". The spirit of Walter Sobchak resides somewhere in Jackson Healy but Crowe dials it down a notch and keeps it on the gruff, smooth DL even when he's dispensing a beatdown. Angourie Rice almost steals the show though, giving a great performance as March's more grounded daughter who really just wants in on the fun, doing whatever it takes to crash the party and crack the case. Some other nice casting choices come in the form of Kim Basinger as a corporate vixen, Keith David and Beau Knapp as hapless heavies and Matt Bomer as gun-happy John Boy, who wouldn't look out of place as the antagonist in a Bond movie.

This is just a really solid popcorn flick, smart dumb fun, where you can send your brain on partial vacation and just enjoy the ride, knowing you're in safe hands. It's well-paced and tonally well-judged, never letting the rhythm drop or proceedings to get too serious, despite the relatively high body count. When it does switch gears, the action is adroitly handled by Black, who directs with easy panache. The funky soundtrack and slick cinematography from Philippe Rousselot are the cherry and umbrella on top that make it a pleasurably haphazard crash through LA's night life in the company of a couple of charming bozos.

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