Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, AC/DC, The Who, Black Sabbath, Francis Ford Coppola, Stanley Kubrick, Werner Herzog, Ingmar Bergman... the 70s was a glorious era. Giving a glimpse of this foregone era of tight-fitting pants and platform shoes, where porn films were fast replacing porn magzines, is Shane Black's neo-noir crime buddy comedy film The Nice Guys.
When Amelia Kutner, the daughter of a high-ranking official in the department of justice, who is somehow linked to the death of a fading pornstar, goes missing, private enforcer Jackson Healy (a dishevelled, out-of-shape Crowe), decides to seek the assistance of a perennially inebriated private detective Holland March (Ryan Gosling). The two cannot see eye-to-eye as Healy had paid a 'visit' to March to keep him away from tailing Kutner, who had hired the former's services before she decided to vanish. Expecting to make some easy money, March joins Healy. The duo soon realises that the mission is not all plain sailing as they stumble upon dead men, hitmen and conspiracies.
The film, written by Shane Black and Anthony Bagarozzi, relays much on the chemistry and impeccable comical timing of the lead pair Crowe and Gosling. Crowe fits well into the shoes of a fierce enforcer-for-hire who keeps his conscience at home when on job—well, most of the time. The slimy, remorse-ridden, alcoholic March is safe in the hands of Gosling. While Black spares time to explain the reason for March's reckless ways, there is little insight into the world of Healy. There are occasional flashes of his tenderness, but the door to his soul remains mostly shut.
Matt Bomer's John Boy is intimidating while the other star presence in the film, Kim Basinger, who plays Kutner's mother, Judith, gets little screen presence.
Sometimes, stealing the show from the ass-kicking duo of Crowe and Gosling is Angourie Rice, who plays Holly, March's young daughter. Although she often disparages her father's method of fleecing clients and feeding them with lies, she joins the men in their adventures and misdemeanors, often saving the day for them.
If you expect relentless action in the proceedings or twist at every turn, it is better to be reminded again that this is essentially a Shane Black movie that gives equal importance to fists and wits while not taking itself too seriously. Black showed his brilliance at blending humour with action in the first two installments of buddy cop flick Lethal Weapon and again in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. He is in great form when the guys—Gosling and Crowe—team up for The Nice Guys and manages to recreate the cars and culture of the 70s while crafting an engaging buddy comedy crime drama.
If you loved Black's earlier works (not Iron Man 3, of course) The Nice Guys won't disappoint you.
Film: The Nice Guys
Director: Shane Black
Cast: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Kim Basinger, Angourie Rice