In The Nice Guys Private Investigator Holland March and tough guy for hire Jackson Healy must work together to find missing woman Amelia. Violence and hilarity ensue as Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe showcase their comedy smarts in Shane Black’s 1970’s set romp.
Black’s feature, which is an ode to buddy films of the past, is in some part a tribute to the culture of 1970’s America. Set in Los Angeles, smog and killer bees and are on the brain along with porn stars and escalating crime. Holland March (Gosling), a PI with a drinking habit and single father to Holly (Angourie Rice), is charged with finding adult actress Misty Mountains but instead ends up trailing activist and runaway Amelia Kutner (Margaret Qualley). Crowe’s Healy is drawn into the mix and begrudgingly hires Holland for his services; together the two men embark on a wild goose trace to track down their target, finding themselves involved in the case of numerous murders within the adult film world.
The Nice Guys successfully transports its audience to 1977, capturing the era well with a scorching soundtrack made up of Earth, Wind & Fire, Kool & The Gang and The Temptations, and vibrant costume design from Kym Barrett. Black’s screenplay is genuinely hilarious and his two protagonists have fun flexing their comedic muscles in amongst ludicrous set pieces and many an injury. Almost dream-like in narrative (spot President Nixon), there’s an emotional core which grounds the flick and keeps it from descending into complete meaningless madness. Rice as Holly is an absolute star and she should have a promising career ahead of her, while Kim Basinger and Yaya DaCosta confidently support our two male leads. The whole cast thrives here and we have just as much fun watching the narrative unfold as they seem to acting it out.
While Black’s nostalgia-fuelled feature made little at the Box Office it’s been a hit amongst critics and is a total triumph that is very nearly flawless. It perhaps might be a little too violent for some and the action sequences come thick and fast, but these don’t completely consume the story and there is plenty of room left for sharp wit and moments of dialogue that boasts some of the best writing in comedy filmmaking we’ve seen in a long while.
The movie is also touchingly sentimental when appropriate as Holly, her father and his new friend form a bond that speaks more of family than friendship and the plot comes full circle, never relying on its violent asides to keep the audience entertained. While there are moments of shocking spectacle these are counterbalanced by farce-like comedy that intelligently steers away from the film becoming darkly serious.
The Nice Guys takes its audience on a wacky, fun-fuelled journey back in time while Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe have immense fun as two pals up against a whole mob of Hollywood bad guys. A total riot.