It is such a rare occurrence in this age of cinema for a mainstream Hollywood movie to be released that is not based on another independent property, be it a reboot of a classic movie (The Jungle Book), based on a book (Alice Through the Looking Glass), a sequel (Bad Neighbours 2), a comic book (Captain America: Civil War) or an out of fashion video game (sigh… Angry Birds).
Yet, here comes director Shane Black with The Nice Guys, based on nothing but stories from an ex private investigator. Set in 1977 Los Angeles, the story follows Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) a man who is payed to beat up people for money and Holland March (Ryan Gosling), a drunken private detective as they become embroiled in a search for a missing girl. The seventies are in full swing with the film bursting at the seams with the culture from the porn industry, Earth, Wind and Fire and colours ranging from bright to neon. Crowe plays Healy as a man who wants to be a detective but is too hesitant to put himself out there. There is an insecurity to his character which is battling with his brutal bravado and it is refreshing to see Crowe play someone with layers that can be found in any regular person. Crowe does play the straight man to the comedic star of the show as Gosling delivers a hell of a goofy performance, which he does so damn well. If you have seen the trailer, the sizzling chemistry between the two is on full display, which it should be, because it is the reason people will return to the film for multiple viewings. Just like Shane Black’s other buddy film set in Los Angeles, the brilliant Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, the dialogue is fast and witty, filled with jokes with little set-up that spring up out of no-where and make you laugh embarrassingly out loud.
Another unassuming positive of the film is Angourie Rice who plays Gosling’s daughter, Holly March. The risk with having a kid in an ‘R’ rated film is that they might default into that annoying category, playing off the inherent funniness that comes with seeing a kid swear that wears off in a few minutes. Yet, Rice is written as a kid in the seventies with a good head on her shoulders, as she raises her father while he tries to raise her. She is not a dead weight as she actually helps with the investigation while not being a liability, especially in comparison with her dad.
The city of Los Angles is less of a character than expected, especially for a movie set in 1977 but the story being told would most likely take place in this time period and the story moulds itself to the surrounding seventies chaos. The pacing is great and I left the theatre thinking I had only been there for an hour instead of the two it actually goes for. There are points when there are a few breaks between gut busting jokes but the smart comedy injected into the script make up for those dips. I am partial to smart comedy that stems from characters that feel real and this movie delivered in spades.
It is silly, violent, in your face and extremely funny in a refreshing way that stems from the characters and their insane situation. Shane Black delivers another movie where the highlight is the dialogue married with a talented cast who delivers it in the most effective and hilarious way.