Synopsis: In 1970s L.A. a pair of detectives stumble into a conspiracy when they join forces to search for a missing girl.
Director: Shane Black
Starring: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Kim Basinger
Genre: Comedy / thriller
Release date: June 3, 2016
Running time: 116 mins
Back in the ’80s and ’90s, screenwriter Shane Black achieved great success as the purveyor of a certain type of wise-cracking action-comedy-thriller, with the likes of the Lethal Weapon series, The Last Boy Scout and The Long Kiss Goodnight.
In 2005, he graduated to directing his own material, with the underrated Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, before landing the gig of writing and directing Iron Man 3 and subsequently achieving the sort of success where producers basically throw money at you and let you make whatever you want.
Happily, The Nice Guys is the result, a riotously entertaining action-comedy that combines old-school detective thrills with laugh-out-loud humour and blackly comic violence.
Crowe is terrific
Set in 1977 Los Angeles, the film stars Russell Crowe as Jackson Healy, a sort of all-purpose heavy-for-hire who’ll beat up anyone for a price.
When he’s paid to warn dopey, booze-addled detective Holland March (Ryan Gosling) off a case, the pair find themselves drawn into a far-reaching conspiracy involving a missing porn star, the Department of Justice and the big three car companies.
Aided by Holland’s street-smart 13 year-old daughter Holly (Angourie Rice), Healy and March start ruffling some pretty powerful feathers, which makes them a target for psychotic hit-man John-Boy (Matt Bomer).
Flouting a world-weary demeanour and a pot-belly that would put EastEnders’ Ian Beale to shame, Crowe is simply terrific as Healy, with the actor clearly having more fun than he’s had in years, to infectiously joyous effect.
Similarly, Gosling turns out to be an unexpectedly gifted physical and verbal comedian, from his hilariously high-pitched screams to his idiosyncratic dialogue delivery, his comic timing and his endearing line in bumbling slapstick (he has an unfortunate tendency to fall off buildings).
However, the pair face some serious scene-stealing competition in the form of Angourie Rice (a definite talent to watch), who effortlessly out-acts the pair of them and emerges as the film’s most level-headed-slash-gutsiest character.
Expertly blending pulpy film noir detective thrillers and classic ’70s crime dramas like The Long Goodbye and Chinatown (with a hint of knowing, Big Lebowski-style pastiche), Black’s script delivers delicious hard-boiled dialogue and a satisfying (if not entirely plausible) central mystery.
In addition, his direction pulls off some inspired moments of hilarious physical comedy (e.g. the bungling of a tossed gun at a crucial moment) and some deliriously entertaining set-pieces, such as the investigating duo gate-crashing a sleazy Hollywood party with Holly in tow.
On top of that, the ’70s production design is extremely impressiv,e and there’s a suitably funky soundtrack to boot.
Oh, hell yes. This is enormous fun from beginning to end, thanks to pitch-perfect comic performances, a delightful script and superb direction. Sequel, please.