Shane Black warms the cockles of my heart. So this is about a pair of detectives in 1970’s Los Angeles (Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling). They’re investigating the death of a porn star, so you can imagine how they react when there are reports of her being sighted postmortem. Shane Black is one of the best screenwriters in Hollywood, and whenever he gets full creative control over a project, he can create something special that can tear the roof off. You need not look any further than the outstanding Kiss Kiss Bang Bang to know exactly what I am talking about. The man knows how to write compelling detective stories, and the best part is that he knows how to turn a phrase to the point of getting you to laugh out loud, even obnoxiously so.
And he’s got the two right leads for the job here.
While The Nice Guys is nowhere near as noteworthy as the compactly brilliant Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (a movie that is in my top ten of all time, so it’s hard to come close), it is always entertaining and a welcome addition to the Shane Black library. I liked the job they did with it being a period piece, and you never forget at any point that this is the 1970’s all over. Where The Nice Guys succeeds the most is in the camaraderie shared by Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling. They’re usually seedy, but they are always likable, and that has everything to do with them having cleverly written punch lines to deliver. The story is your standard hard-boiled detective tale, so it never floors you in that department, but the joy is in the journey and all of the asides these two characters share. For example, there’s an expertly executed scene where the two of them have to interact with a group of protesters who are all playing dead. The character motivation is to simply gather information, but the way that it plays out is hilarious, and that is all due to how the script is penned.
And it also doesn’t hurt that they both have poor impulse control.
The Nice Guys is a fun movie. It’s not likely to finish all that high on my year end of “best of” list, but it will likely meet the cut, and I enjoyed it to the point that I am stoked that I got to see it in a theater. These two ne’er-do-well characters have big personalities, and they come off like rascals more than anything. If you have been feeling like there is a giant Lethal Weapon sized hole in your life and you want to fix that, you need not look any further than The Nice Guys.
The Nice Guys (2016) ****
– Critic for Hire