Shane Black makes the kind of scuzzy Raymond Chandler style detective noirs that you wish you’d read the book of before anyone had ever heard about it, they’re that cool. Having won 2005 with the torn-edge classic that was Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, he steps away from the Marvel playground of Iron Man 3, to find his rhythm amongst the LA foothills.
It’s 1977 and we’re privy to the voiceovers of single father and low-rent detective Holland March (Ryan Gosling), and knuckle-dusting thug-for-hire, Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe). Their paths cross in pursuit of Amelia (Margaret Qualley), who March has been hired to track down, something that Healy has been paid to put a stop to. One broken arm later and the two reluctantly agree to pair up and solve a crime which involves deceased porn stars, a missing film can, lots of squealing, and a CGI bumblebee.
If you want to set yourself a celluloid challenge for 2016, then it’s to find a film with which you’ll have as much fun as The Nice Guys. Everything about it is so on-point; it’s clever, it’s funny, it has a spectrum of three dimensional characters who’ll have you guffawing one minute and then fearing for their life amidst the Looney Toons style action the next. This is controlled hyperactivity, smart lunacy, and just plain funny in a way that doesn’t beg for the laughs with lowest common denominator gags.
Everyone is operating at the top of their game; when Russell Crowe cares, you get Bud White and intensity, here you get his cooler alter-ego, who still packs the punches with a hint of moral ambiguity, but can drop a smirk at a moment’s notice. He hasn’t been this likeable in a long time. Dropping the poker-face slapped on him by Winding-Refn, Gosling is only a revelation to those who haven’t seen Crazy Stupid Love or The Big Short, and here he gives a giggling, screaming, slapstick masterclass as the irresponsible detective dad.
Almost stealing the film from both of them is Angourie Rice as his wise-beyond-her-years daughter, who walks the line between sweet and smart-ass to perfection. As a trio, you’d welcome the further adventures of this dysfunctional troupe in a heartbeat.
And then there’s the orchestrator of all the speakeasy shenanigans, Shane Black, who along with Anthony Bagorizzi, compliments his cast’s efforts with some of the funniest zingers since 2005. There is a tipping point in which Gosling swims with mermaids, when you’re thinking he could be pushing the “wackiness” a tad too much, but it’s all reigned in with great Wily E Coyote action beats and some spark inducing back-and-forth between its leads.
Effortless in every aspect of the filmmaking process, The Nice Guys, if it’s not already, will become a bonafide classic of instant rewatchability, ‘and stuff’.