Who would have thought Ryan “Dreamboat” Gosling and Russell “Probably Should Have Passed on Les Misérables” Crowe were a match made in heaven? Shane Black, that’s who.
Set in 1977, The Nice Guys follows two private investigators, the maladroit Holland March (Gosling) and the hard-nosed Jackson Healy (Crowe), who pair up together to solve the mysterious disappearance of a young woman named Amelia (Margaret Qualley). The case leads them into the dark recesses of LA’s underworld and unveils a web of corruption, murder, and of course good old fashion 1970s porn. Inappropriately tagging along on their dangerous misadventures is March’s teenage daughter Holly, played by the incredibly talented Australian actress Angourie Rice, who is the film’s moral compass and a far more competent detective than her father.
As you’d expect from a film set in the 1970s, the costumes and set designs are charmingly nostalgic, and the party scenes are a psychedelic mix of colour and sound. Shane Black certainly didn’t waste the opportunity to fill his world with wonderful cultural references and load the soundtrack with classics such as The Bee Gees’ “Jive Talkin’” and “Get Down On It” by Kool & The Gang. The sleazy LA culture, unique disco sound, and exaggerated fashion of the 1970s create the perfect setting for two private eyes to run wild.
The story is bizarre and convoluted while still managing to be oddly predictable. For the most part this works in the film’s favour, allowing the audience to get swept up in the zaniness and absurdity of the case while still carving out a clear path to the finish line. There are times however when The Nice Guys runs the risk of disengaging its audience with some well-worn jokes and lacklustre scenes, most of which occur during the film’s final act. Thankfully the magnetism of Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe is strong enough to hold our attention when things starts to wane.
The two lead actors, along with the young Rice, have remarkable on-screen chemistry and their personalities complement each other perfectly. The boyish charm and at times implausible ineptitude of Holland March is the driving force behind much of the film’s humour, and showcases Gosling’s unheralded talent at physical comedy. However the shtick does grow tiresome at times, and it is Crowe’s tough and straight-faced demeanour as Healy and the profound maturity of Angourie Rice as Holly, which stops The Nice Guys from completely losing itself in the chaos of absurdity and surrealism.
Verdict: The Nice Guys is a weirdly wonderful ride that treats us to the antics of Hollywood’s new dream team and the talent of a rising star. It may be flawed and struggle under the weight of a 116 minute runtime, but it is still one of the best comedies films in recent years.