Directed by Shane Black
Starring Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe, Angourie Rice
Alcoholic, widowed PI Holland March (Ryan Gosling) is on a downwards path, as he bilks customers for searching for relatives that he will never find. His search for one very publicly dead porn star puts him on a collision course with muscle for hire, Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe). Together they are plunged down the cesspit of corruption and immorality that is the porn industry in ’70s LA, as they search for a missing girl. A girl who might not be as dead as she first appears.
No one writes ‘buddy’ action comedies quiet like Shane Black. It’s been a while since we have seen this shtick done with this degree of aplomb, and that is because The Nice Guys manages to nail the critical ingredients of dialogue and chemistry. Black’s (and co-writer Anthony Bagarozzi) script feels natural tumbling out of the mouths of the two leads. It nails the time, place and feel of the characters. It’s an odd script that seems to revel in failure and broken dreams, but despite a couple of flat points, it works.
The characters are catapulted into this world of sleaze and back room deals that they seem (with their rather broken moral compasses) oddly suited to dealing with. Not that they are shown as capable, although in they do work magic in their own fields. Rather it is a case of failing upwards, as they muddle through from bad to worse. It’s quiet a feat to balance that comedy and suspense, while making a couple of disreputable chumps so likeable.
The second element here is the chemistry between Gosling and Crowe. Rusty is the best he’s been in a while, playing his characteristic thug with a soft centre. The level of professional ethics Crowe imbues this leg-breaker with is also comedic gold. This plays off the more mercenary drunken PI of Gosling. Add both together and watch the sparks, quips and bullets fly.
Providing them common ground is Angourie Rice as March’s suffering daughter, Holly. She provides the perfect avatar for the era; knowing, yet strangely naive at the same time. Her fractious relationship with her father plays off the avuncular relationship of her and Healy. More than just a dependant in distress, she adds to the comic fray.
There is no doubt this is popcorn entertainment, combining ’70s sleazy streets with ’80s buddy action comedy. The resulting mix is an enjoyable modern noir, albeit harsh and bloody.