Director Shane Black is certainly one for bucking trends. The writer/director followed up his hit debut Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2005) by directing Marvel’s mega blockbuster Iron Man 3, a jump from indie to action crowd-pleaser that few would have predicted. Now, instead of helming another major franchise movie like other directors in his position would, Black returns to his roots with The Nice Guys, a neo-noir buddy crime comedy, one very much in a similar vein to Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.
Teaming Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe together as an alcoholic private eye and a thuggish enforcer investigating the disappearance of a young girl in 1970’s Los Angeles, the movie is packed full of with Black’s trademark wit and outlandish humour. The period setting and the darker nature of the crime story at the heart of the film never restrict Black’s more outlandish moments, nor do they feel forced or out of place. It’s the weird little moments peppered throughout that work in the film’s favour, elevating the material on offer tenfold and gifting the film with a sense of individuality. The crime-procedural aspect of the story isn’t wasted either, with Black laying in plenty of surprising twists and turns, developing a solid mystery that remains intriguing throughout the entirety of the movie.
Of course, with a buddy comedy such as this to work, then you need an onscreen pairing that practically screams perfect chemistry. Thankfully, Crowe and Gosling are exactly that, the two actors sharing great comedic timing and prowess. Gosling, in particular, is a hoot throughout as down on his luck detective Holland March, an accident prone drunk who belts girlish screams of terror at the most inopportune moments and pales in the face of violent confrontation. The two seasoned actors are clearly having the time of their life playing out the almost farcical action scenes and comedy set-pieces, and as such, so are we!
The Nice Guys is at its best when it plays on the ridiculous and the most oddball aspects of its story. The dialogue is gorgeously quotable and witty, the action frenzied and fun, the mystery engrossing. Black’s direction is tight throughout, with the action scenes, in particular, showing off the man’s mastery of mayhem. Bought to stunning life in a vibrant and seedy period setting that oozes natural style and flair, and featuring perfect performances from Gosling, Crowe and newcomer Angourie Rice, The Nice Guys is a further testament that Shane Black is a talented, jack-of-all-trades movie-maker.
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