The Nice Guys is a film that fits cleanly and snugly into writer/director Shane Black’s legacy in film – and that would be he was also the fellow who brought us both the Lethal Weapon movies as well as the tragically under-appreciated Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. This time it’s not a buddy cop film, but rather a wonderfully cast buddy… enforcer, would probably be the best term. Russel Crowe is Jackson Healy and Ryan Gosling plays Holland March; Healy is a proactive bodyguard for hire (if you’re a woman being creeped on, you can hire Healy to make sure that the creeper won’t be coming around you ever again), and March is a bottom of the barrel private investigator. Neither men are even approaching what would classify as good guys, but neither are they villains, either.
It’s Black’s ability to take what’s basically a black comedy and litter it with characters that are deeply interesting and fascinating to watch go about their lives on the screen. The casting of Crowe and Gosling is so achingly perfect – set in the Los Angeles of 1977, both men read spot on. When March meets an elderly woman find her lost husband, he asks her “How long has he been missing?” She replies, “Since the funeral.” He sighs and looks over towards the urn sitting on the shelf in the room. But at the same time, he doesn’t hesitate to take the case.
March and Healey cross paths of each other and while they don’t get along (no shock there), they discover they are coming at the same missing person case from different angles. Mix in the death of a fading porn starlet, some corporate intrigue, and you get a flavor of slowly unravelling a mystery that isn’t a far throw from Brian De Palma’s erotic noir film, Body Double. If you like crime mysteries, especially ones with a noir and period flavor, you won’t go far wrong in going to check out Nice Guys while it’s still in the theaters.
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