Darkly comic and outrageously entertaining, The Nice Guys is everything a Shane Black movie should be. Those familiar with his schtick- Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang et al – will know what to expect. But the easily offended should steer clear due to strong violence, swearing, nudity, sexual references and general disreputability.
All warnings duly out of the way, The Nice Guys is a pleasing return to the kind of grown-up caper thriller so popular in the 1980s, albeit this time set in the 1970s. The plot concerns PIs Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) and Holland March (Ryan Gosling), who end up investigating the murder and mysterious apparent reappearance of a famous porn star. Of course at first Jackson and Holland can’t stand each other, but this gradually builds into the kind of buddy movie so beloved of yesteryear, proving gripping and laugh-out-loud hilarious in equal measure.
The leads and supporting cast (which includes Kim Basinger) all do well, but Angourie Rice deserves a special mention as Holland’s winning, streetwise daughter. The attention to period detail is nicely rendered amid a smog infused 70s LA, and beyond all the violence and profanity there is an undercurrent of redemption singular to Black movies. Just as Lethal Weapon’s underlying message is about how family and friends can heal loneliness and despair (a message increasing less subtle in the various sequels), The Nice Guys gives Holland a character arc that enables him to emerge from the guilt and despair he feels surrounding the tragic death of his wife.
Not that The Nice Guys is a heavy movie by any means. On the contrary it is tough, cynical, violent, absurd and funny, and on those levels delivers in spades. Yes, perhaps the plot gets a bit bogged down at times in conspiracy twists and turns, but as a whole it is very satisfying.