By Thomas Simpson
After a brief stint in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (see Iron Man 3), director Shane Black returns with the slick and stylish buddy comedy, The Nice Guys. Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) is a no-nonsense enforcer who has no qualms in beating people up for a fair price. He is hired by a missing girl, Amelia (Margaret Qualley), to get private eye Holland March (Ryan Gosling) off her case.
At first, Jackson complies, roughing Holland up and delivering a clear message to back off. After an encounter with a couple of thugs, Jackson soon realizes that Amelia is in danger which results in him forming an uneasy alliance with the man he injured.
Black is no stranger to a successful buddy movie having written the widely influential Lethal Weapon. The Nice Guys imbues many similar themes except here there is no by the book model cop to play off the wacky loose cannon, instead Jackson’s own honorable code grounds Holland’s scamming and sleazy PI with the latter’s family life doing the same for Jackson. It’s Holland’s 13-year-old daughter Holly (Angourie Rice) that provides the moral compass of the duo with the young actress excelling in a solid role with deft writing preventing her from being the annoying child sidekick.
Crowe’s surly and burned out tough guy is a joy to watch but it’s Gosling that steals the show with his hilarious performance that airs on the right side of parody. His smooth demeanor pairs well with his slimy morals, yet it’s his likability that draws you to the character. Black and co-writer Anthony Bagarozzi don’t shy away from clichés and tropes in the writing but they complement the script as opposed to drag it down. The film is very self-aware and despite the comedic nature, the tone is able to turn on a dime and silence the laughter as effortlessly as it starts.
The overall plot is a little convoluted as a greater conspiracy unravels, however this is merely a McGuffin and not worth investing too much thought into. Instead, sit back and enjoy the laughs thanks to the great acting and slick writing.
Thomas Simpson is a writer and filmmaker based in Glasgow, U.K. Find him on Twitter: @Simmy41.