The Nice Guys (Shane Black, 2016)

What's it about? A detective romp set in late-70s LA, as bluff private-eye Holland March (Ryan Gosling) and gruff tough-guy Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) team up to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a young actress.



Is it any good? A pretty fun romp, with most of the entertainment generated by the chemistry between the two leads as they swap wisecracks and punches in a nod to those mismatched buddy action movies of the 80s (not least Lethal Weapon, which launched Black's career as a writer). Gosling in particular manages the slapstick elements well and gets most of the big laughs. There's also an agreeably labyrinthine plot which nods to the pulp detective thrillers that inspired Black's neo-noir-ish script, whilst the sleazy 70s setting allows Black to get away with some casual misogyny and sexism, which might otherwise rankle with some feminists. (Although they shouldn't bother their pretty little heads about such things - Hollywood's not really like that, is it! Is it?).
In comparison to Black's previous work, however, it falls a little short. One thing I particularly disliked was the character of March's smartass 13-year-old daughter (Angourie Rice), whose precociousness rather stretches credibility, even allowing for the broadly comic tone. Black pulled off the annoying kid sidekick trick to much better effect in The Last Boy Scout and Iron Man 3; here the smarter-than-the-men teenager is presumably intended to balance out the negative treatment of other females in the film, but ends up being irritating rather than inspiring. Likewise, his best film, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, was a wittier and more subversive spin on both the underbelly of Hollywood and the private eye genre. So whilst this latest film is a perfectly watchable caper, in a competition between Black's previous films, The Nice Guys would probably finish last. Then again, none of those featured a conversation with a giant killer bee.

Anything else I should know? Why not watch it on a triple bill with Inherent Vice and The Big Lebowski, both of which I've handily reviewed here for you. More likely, seeing Crowe and Kim Basinger (who pops up in a small role) onscreen together will just leave you wanting to watch the superlative LA Confidential again. which I've raved about here.

What does the Fonz think? LOL Confidential.

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