Shane Black’s The Nice Guys is my most anticipated film of the summer, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the outrageously funny buddy-cop film lives up to my expectations. Black, who is best known for being the 80s wunderkind who wrote Lethal Weapon and a slew of other action films from that era, has been relatively busy lately. In 2013 he directed Iron Man 3 for Marvel, which became the highest grossing film of that said year. With his new film, Black is able to return to the roots that he’s best known for, the buddy cop genre. Lethal Weapon is his most famous foray into that, but he also wrote and directed the criminally underrated 2005 flick Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, which is one of my favorite films of the past couple of years. The Nice Guys appears to be fresh counter-programming this summer, and I’d say it’s definitely worth your time and money.
The film takes place in Los Angeles, late-1970s. The Carter administration, the recession, a gas shortage, etc. What kicks the film off is the mysterious death of a porn star somewhere in the Valley, and Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) is investigating the matter. Healy discovers that Holland March (Ryan Gosling), another private investigator, is investigating the matter, and the two team up to not only investigate this death, but also figure out where a missing girl named Amelia (Margaret Qualley) is, who happens to be the daughter of the LA District Attorney (Kim Basinger).
Black directs a screenplay co-written by Anthony Bagarozzi, and this film has Black’s signature stamp all over it. The sleazy portrayal of Los Angeles, the witty banter between characters, the fast-paced and exciting script, you name it, this film has it. It also has two terrific comedic turns by Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, who are both fantastic in the film. Crowe plays the straight-man of the two, while Gosling is the bumbling and drunk idiot of the two. These are broad descriptions of these two characters since they have backstories and development that makes you feel and enjoy being around these characters. Gosling’s character has a daughter named Holly (Angourie Rice), who steals the show from time to time in the film. Holly is often the third wheel at times to Healy and March’s case, and Black is able to cast an actress who never feels whiny or unnecessary throughout the film. She is often needed during the case, and the young actress’s comedic timing with Crowe and Gosling is on-par with the two veterans. Also, it was nice to see the LA Confidential reunion between Crowe and Basinger, even if it was just for a handful of scenes.
The film also does a terrific job of showcasing Los Angeles during this period in our country. This was right when the smog levels in LA began to get really bad, and many of the protests that were happening around this time are a backdrop on the story, as well as the recession that had occurred during this period. While it notes on IMDB that most of the film was shot in Atlanta, Black and company do a terrific job of making you feel as if you are in the City of Angels, not Hot-lanta. Movie magic still exists, believe it or not.
All in all, The Nice Guys is a blast to watch from beginning to end. The film runs a little under two hours, and its the perfect running time for a film like this. The film is often very, very funny, and it doesn’t hurt that the performances are also very funny and terrific. Sure, some of the twists and turns in the film’s plot aren’t too shocking or revealing, but the entertainment value of the entire film makes up for that. Shane Black continues to be one of Hollywood’s best screenwriters and directors for mainstream films such as this one. This film is also a welcome back for mega-producer Joel Silver, who hasn’t put his name behind anything halfway decent in the past few years up until now. If Silver continues to produce and make quality entertainment like The Nice Guys, he could potentially be as prolific as he once was in the 80s and 90s.