I’ve made no secret that I love Shane Black’s work. The guy really writes buddy comedy like no other. Since a very young age, I’ve been totally enamored with his work, starting with Lethal Weapon, probably the ultimate buddy cop film to this day, written just after he had gotten out of UCLA. After, he would write a personal favorite of mine, The Monster Squad, and then collaborate on Lethal Weapon 2, before selling his script for The Last Boy Scout, a screenplay that earned him $1.75 million, the largest price tag ever at the time. This would be topped by his Long Kiss Goodnight screenplay which netted him a cool $4 million dollars following another film very close to my heart, Last Action Hero. Although some of these films weren’t hugely successful, Black quickly became someone that inspired me and I would constantly search out what he was doing next.
In 2005, Shane Black decided to take one of his scripts and translate it to the screen himself by directing Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, a murder mystery caper set in Los Angeles with Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer. This hilariously quick witted comedy became an instant favorite of mine and a movie I watch every Christmas, because, like the majority of Black’s films, this one takes place during the yuletide season. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang features a mind-bogglingly good screenplay with dialogue actors would kill for, each line being infinitely quotable, as I can attest to myself. He then reteams with Downey for Iron Man 3, another solid Marvel installment and then announced that he would be doing another buddy comedy with Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe called The Nice Guys.
The film follows two main characters, Holland March (Gosling) and Jackson Healy (Crowe). Healy is basically hired muscle, sent by clients to instill either fear or a casual warning and his current job is to get a private investigator off the back of his latest client, a troubled girl named Amelia. March is the P.I. in question, hired by the mother of a semi-famous and freshly murdered porn star who is just looking for answers.
After an altercation in which Healy puts a hairline fracture in March’s arm, the two end up joining forces after the other people chasing down Amelie end up making matters personal for the aging enforcer. Set against the back drop of a 1977 Los Angeles and with Marsh’s whip-smart thirteen year old daughter, the two navigate their way through porn producer parties, showdowns with murderous henchmen and try to stay alive with a ruthless “fixer” flown in from the East Coast, nicknamed John Boy, who is relentlessly gunning for them.
This movie flows flawlessly with the same great dialogue you expect to come out of Shane Black. There are no wasted moments in the film, as it never falls below the brilliant pace it sets up. The chemistry between Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe is that great quality you really strive for in these buddy comedies and the two seem to hit it in stride so effortlessly. The characters are immediately likeable and you want to root for them both from beginning to end. As this is really Black’s bread and butter, it was assuring to me to see this gifted writer and director show no signs of fatigue or slowing down. Hell, we might even have a franchise with this one. I am certainly not opposed to that.
The stand out for this movie is definitely Gosling, who delivers a comedic performance that I have never seen him do before. In previous comedies that he has made, like Crazy Stupid Love and, what can arguably be called a comedy, The Big Short, his characters are cool, collected and bring with them a certain charm that you know the real Gosling most likely has. Holland March is anything but business as usual for the handsome actor, as he is basically a drunk screw up who finds ways to cheat his clients out of money, claiming them as the “tricks of the trade.” He is neither valiant nor stoic, no matter how cool he likes to play it, as his high pitched screams of terror would betray. He commands zero respect, especially from his daughter, Holly, who is played fantastically by Australian actress Angourie Rice, which probably stunts his attempts at authority greatly.
The love for the aesthetic of the seventies is present in The Nice Guys, as is the love Shane Black has for film as we always see billboards for Jaws 2, Airport ’77 and Smokey and the Bandit throughout the film. The attention to detail in all the small aspects of this movie is what makes the production design side of The Nice Guys work so well. The wardrobe is impeccable and to the point that I was jealous of some of Gosling’s jackets and bad button up shirts. The immersion in this time period is full and never leaves you questioning anything.
If you’re the kind of filmgoer who only takes in a movie every so often, The Nice Guys is the kind of film that is meant for you. I can honestly say that it is very hard to find any faults with this movie besides the story being slightly predictable. I don’t think this is a detriment to the movie in any sense, as the ride from beginning to end is so enjoyable that whatever clichés appear in the film are just completely moot when all is said and done. I am more than willing to defend any criticisms of this film and it rejuvenated my love for the buddy comedy genre, one that Shane Black proves once again that he is the absolute master of. The Nice Guys is a pure gem and could quite possibly be the best comedy you will see in 2016. I give it a perfect score in every sense, five out of five.