Probably the easiest review I’ve ever written; I don’t have a bad word to say.
There’s nary a finer cinematic treat than the occasional perfect storm that compliments any great comedy release. An evidently tipsy full house, the buzz of anticipation based on strong reviews, that Friday night feel despite it being a Sunday (stat holidays for the win); the people are up for it. All they need is for the film to deliver. In this particular instance, Shane Black’s The Nice Guys hit the nail so squarely on the head you could put a pair of thick-rimmed glasses on it and call it a nerd. Set against the neon-dripping backdrop of late-seventies Los Angeles, Black’s neo-noir action-comedy stars Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as a team of unlikely, but oh-so-loveable detectives-turned-buddies, tasked with unravelling a bizarre mystery encompassing delirious old ladies, corrupt big business, and Hollywood-infused porno stars/parties/movies. All with a little kid in tow.
For a fair few months now, it’s been clear The Nice Guys was a recipe for success. Shane Black is a top drawer writer and had previous form in the buddy-comedy genre stretching back through the eighties (Lethal Weapon’s and, before dropping out, Lethal Weapon 2), before breaking into the directing game with another original, wonderfully quirky script, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, in 2005. Thus, The Nice Guys’ bizarre anti-heroes, dodgy villains and lightning-paced dialogue fit together in a manner that’s as tight as tight can be from start to finish. Black and co-writer Anthony Bagarozzi whip up a funny-as-fuck feast of smart set-ups and clever callbacks, complete with a never ending conveyer of witty, tailor-made one-liners and a slab of surprisingly non-cringeworthy slapstick. To say the overall plot is free from the odd hole here and there wouldn’t be accurate, but none are remotely big enough to drain the swimming pool’s worth of overwhelming charm on which our enjoyment floats throughout.
The performances, too, are straight up, good old fashioned fun. Crowe and Gosling are on fire as Healy and March; two almost-farcical forces of (painfully human) nature, who manage to demonstrate quite wonderful comedic chemistry and timing despite the other’s ever-changing status between friend and foe. Like virtually every character (and it’s a top notch supporting cast), they’re mere caricatures; products of a rather hazy, altogether wild time and place; but their exaggerated existence fits the tone perfectly. When one takes into account the fact that Black helped flesh out the budding bromance of Riggs and Murtaugh some thirty years ago, the parallels are as obvious as they are welcome. Surpassing expectation is Angourie Rice, who no doubt has a hefty chunk of fully deserved praise coming her way during the next few months. Playing March’s daughter, Holly, Rice grows into the role as the picture progresses, giving as good as any teen actor before her. She proves to be the ideal foil for Black and Bagarozzi’s pull-no-punches approach, handling Crowe and Gosling’s bad-daddy-banter with ease.
Maintaining the picture’s consistent, underlying groove is the superb technical side; spearheaded by Black’s fresh, ever-developing directorial style. Together with his always creative cinematographer, Philippe Rousselout, Black seamlessly layers numerous basic comic concepts with subtle, but nonetheless striking imagery. The beautiful shoot – punctuated with funky framing and a sharp editing job – looks and feels like a late-70s flick straight off the streets of Los Angeles. Crucially, however, there’s the added boost of Black’s own unique twists; courtesy of his position as a longstanding product of Hollywood’s constantly changing environments.
The soundtrack’s cool-slash-smooth vibes speak for themselves, so I’ll chuck in a more detailed shout out for the sound in general, which really is top notch in terms of both design and mixing. The tightly coordinated action does the business on screen (another nod to Black’s background in the genre), but it can’t be overstated how good the whole thing sounds throughout – especially for a movie in which action isn’t the primary focus. Each gunshot, whizzing bullet, and bone-crunching impact punches up the viewing experience from great to goddamn brilliant.
In hindsight – considering I genuinely don’t have a bad word to say about The Nice Guys – this is probably the easiest review I’ve ever had the pleasure of penning. The only conclusion I can give is that you should go and see it right away, because, if you’re not already familiar with Shane Black, you’re going to want to jump on that bandwagon pretty darn soon…