It’s important to acknowledge educated opinions, and equally important to know when to ignore them. I happily got on board with all the flak that Shane Black received for Iron Man 3 and thought myself very smug for it. But having now seen The Nice Guys and as a result remembering the fun I had watching Kiss Kiss Bang Bang I find myself warming to the director considerably.
The Nice Guys gets off to a flying start with a funky slap-bass 70’s soundtrack leading us into one of the films many many car crashes. This crash and the foul play suspected to be surrounding it is what leads hired muscle Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) and atrocious PI Holland March (Ryan Gosling) to team up and uncover a conspiracy involving pornography, Detroit automotive companies and the US Department Of Justice. This investigation includes heavy drinking, gunfire, broken bones, and a passion for broken windows not seen since Robocop (the original one, naturally).
It’s refreshing to see a buddy-cop comedy that isn’t trying so damn hard for once, and better still one that is so perfectly named. Healy and March, despite the former breaking the others arm in the early scenes, are motivated not by justice but by their own personal creeds. March is trying to do right by his daughter (in spite of her being crowbarred unnecessarily into the plot where a simple namedrop would have sufficed), and is shown to be somewhat embittered by his past failings, although this doesn’t stop his Sterling Archer-esque drinking habits or the exploitation of his clients. Healy meanwhile, with his history of divorce, alcohol and tobacco-free lifestyle, and penchant for protecting innocence, is somewhat reminiscent of Bud White, Crowe’s character from LA Confidential, although lacking in the tragic backstory and frontier justice of that character. These two personalities come together in some truly hilarious scenes, such as the infiltration of a house party hosted by a 70’s porn tycoon, or the clandestine meeting in an airport hotel which results in them comically turning tale at the sign of a hired gun.
Black’s film is, like every movie, not without fault. The eponymous ‘nice guys’ really steal the show, but March’s daughter (played by Angourie Rice and who I just know is going to be flooding our silver screens over the next few years) is rather irritatingly tagged along for the entire caper, even occupying the moral high-ground when Healy attempts to finish off John-Boy, the hitman who mere minutes before was trying to kill her and her father. The automotive-pollution-corruption plot is rather awkwardly handled, and seems to be more of a framing device rather than a coherent narrative, but I didn’t mind that so much as it kept the pace of the story consistent.
All in all, The Nice Guys is a very enjoyable buddy-comedy which breaks free from the stench of Ride Along and the Jump Street franchise (because that’s what it is now) and really makes the most of its setting and genre. The writing is simple, but sharp and effectively executed, and there’s enough over-the-top 70’s exploitation excess to keep you thoroughly entertained throughout. I just hope the sequel hook is left alone, because as a stand-alone film there’s potential for cult status here.