Having divided cinema-goers after entering blockbuster territory with Iron Man 3, it's refreshing for Shane Black to return to the big screen with a much smaller scale film in the form of The Nice Guys. Starring Russell Crowe as hired enforcer Jackson Healy and Ryan Gosling as private eye Holland March, the plot involves the two attempting to find a missing girl named Amelia and uncover why several men are trying to kill her, with the pair soon find themselves caught up in a plot much bigger than either of them had originally anticipated. Functioning essentially as a 'buddy movie' which plays out as a neo-noir, The Nice Guys is a genre pairing that works beautifully thanks to the central performances and Black's script which is equal parts hilarious and clever. Set in 1977 Los Angeles, The Nice Guys cleverly cements itself within the period that the story takes place by referencing actual events. With the city being plagued by smog throughout the 1970s, car companies were urged to attach catalytic converters to their newer vehicles in an attempt to reduce pollution, and it's these facts that Black chooses to revolve his narrative around, as well as the growth of the porn industry and institutional corruption. Each of these components work in tandem to create a story which understands it's time period much better than the recent X- Men: Apocalypse, making it feel entirely necessary rather than a narrative gimmick, and allows Black to fully showcase his talents as a writer by utilising a historic period in such an effective way. No matter how effective this setting is, it wouldn't be nearly as enjoyable had it not been for the characters that inhabit it. Jackson Healy and Holland March may occupy familiar territory within a buddy movie, but Black's witty dialogue and fantastic performances from his leading men ensure that the film's protagonists never feel stale. Crowe and Gosling prove to be one of the best double acts in recent years, with the former giving his best performance in almost a decade and the latter displaying the full range of his comedic talents after dabbling with comedy in The Big Short and Crazy, Stupid, Love. Together, their characters exist as a flawed odd couple who manage to bring out the best in each other a trope of the buddy movie yet the way in which Black presents both them and their budding friendship/partnership is completely believable and hilarious. It's this hilarity that is present throughout the clever narrative that elevates The Nice Guys above recent buddy movies such as Ride Along, proving that films of this genre can have brains and humour instead of just the latter. Mixing slapstick with physical comedy and witty dialogue, Black has created a film which should appeal to a wide variety of people no matter what tickles their funny bone, and do so while telling an often complex tale of corruption in 1970s LA. It's this mix of comedic stylings that provides levity to some of the more violent scenes featured within the film and Black makes sure that the jokes are never too quippy or predictable at any point. Unpredictability may be a dirty word in Hollywood yet here, it greatly helps the film in terms of both the humour and the plot. As good and as funny as the two leads are, it's Angourie Rice that steals many of the best lines as March's daughter, Holly, which may very well be the most surprising aspect of the film. Though only thirteen, Holly is presented as being much more efficient than her father and often exists as his guiding light when his problem with alcohol gets the better of him, and as a young actress, Rice displays an incredible amount of composure amongst two of Hollywood's leading men. Plot wise, there's several twists and turns within the narrative that allows the audience to discover things as the characters do, which aids the mystery within the plot and ensures that each revelation is met with surprise from both those on screen and in the cinema. If there's one flaw to be found within The Nice Guys, however, it does also relate to the plot. While Black's script is clever, there are times when viewers may get a little bit lost as the investigation unfolds. This is partly due to Black's reluctance to include exposition heavy scenes which is, for the most part, a smart technique but one that can be troublesome in a film such as this. Filmmakers should never rely too much on exposition in order to tell a compelling story I'm looking at you, Nolan but if it is used wisely and incorporated subtly, it can be a great help when connecting the dots that make up the plot. A scene towards the end of the film that reveals the big picture to the characters and the audience does feature exposition that doesn't feel too heavy handed, proving that Black is capable of providing information through dialogue that sounds natural. Thankfully, the scene in question brings viewers up to speed before the thrilling, and often explosive, finale at the Los Angles Auto Show which provides a satisfying conclusion to the events that preceded it. With a new Predator on the cards for Black in the very near future, it's a pleasure to see him deliver a smaller film before he returns to blockbuster territory and reminds us all just how enjoyable a night at the cinema can be. A comedy with brains, Black's latest benefits from a superb script and great performances from Crowe, Gosling, and it's secondary cast members. When it comes to value for money this summer, you'll be hard pressed to find a film that can offer it quite like The Nice Guys does.
The Nice Guys
Set against the backdrop of 1977 Los Angeles, The Nice Guys opens when single father and licensed PI Holland March (Gosling) is hired to investigate the apparent suicide of famous porn star Misty Mountains. As the trail leads him to track down a girl named Amelia (Qualley), he encounters less licensed and less hands-off private eye Jackson Healey (Russell Crowe) and his brass knuckles, both hired by the young hippie. However, the situation takes a turn for the worse when Amelia vanishes and it becomes apparent that March wasn't the only party interested. As both men are forced to team up, they'll have to take on a world filled with eccentric goons, strippers dressed as mermaids and even a possible government conspiracy.