‘The Nice Guys’ Review: Return to Form
As a reviewer with no exposure to any of director Shane Black’s works aside from Iron Man 3 – which I loathed – my expectations going into the recently released The Nice Guys were very low. Black had, in my opinion, ruined Iron Man in his third installment with nauseatingly frequent comedic breaks and poorly delivered wit never let the seriousness of the story settle long enough for it to be considered a real struggle and growing experience for Tony Stark. It seems. However, I was right in my assumptions; Shane Black is a director who can’t bear to make a film without centering it around comedy. Supported by the critically-acclaimed Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and the now undeniably hilarious The Nice Guys, pure comedies are an area in which he excels.
Starring the exceptionally talented Russel Crowe and Ryan Gosling as reluctant buddy cops, The Nice Guys harkens back to the pop, pizzazz and uninhibited free-wheeling personalities of the 70’s. Holland March (Gosling) is an apathetic, avaricious private-eye supporting his only daughter while coping with the death of his wife. Opposite him, Jackson Healy (Crowe) is an old Irish enforcer making his living through hurting the right people for the right price. Though Healy is at first hired to “dissuade” March from investigating a young girl named Amelia (Margaret Qualley), a dangerous conspiracy involving the city of Detroit forces the two to work together as partners to protect Amelia from those who want her dead.
What most people will walk away from this film thinking of, and which I certainly did, is the absolute absurd hilarity of Ryan Gosling. In a particularly un-cool and un-Gosling role, he excels at being the comedic grounding and continued source of genuinely funny humor to compliment Crowe’s old and no-nonsense style. With slick and novel comedic timing, Gosling pushes this film to the upper echelons of gut-wrenchingly, leave-you-breathless humor. Not only that, he manages to portray a guilt-ridden widower and depressing drunk with touching sensitivity, all the while being boosted by Angourie Rice’s excellent performance as his sassy and determined daughter.
And although both Crowe and Gosling are independently great, together they’re exceptional. In a convincing yet still funny deconstruction of the buddy-cop genre, March and Healey despise each other for almost all of the film. Healey’s constant disappointment and impatience with March’s antics seem, on paper, very familiar and unoriginal. Seeing, however, is believing, and there is nothing unoriginal about the breezy, natural and well-developed tenuous relationship between Crowe and Gosling’s characters. Both actors give it their all to act as believable as their characters would and all the while remain faithful to the script’s intelligent exploration of their emotional burdens.
Despite the superlative comedy and acting, The Nice Guys also boasts a refreshingly nostalgic 70’s soundtrack and features superb set design and costumes to make for a captivating and believable groovy setting.
Having both underestimated Black’s directing ability and sorely passing the film’s premise as “trying too hard to be different”, I can confidently say that this was one of the most enjoyable movies I’ve seen this spring. Though more intelligent and ambitious, The Nice Guys is also fondly reminiscent of last year’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E in its sharp tongue, exceptionally believable setting and memorable characters.
In a year littered with superhero and fantasy films, The Nice Guys is a breezy, light-hearted, hilarious and genuinely touching film well worth its two-hour-runtime.