The Nice Guys
This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, May 2016
4 1/2 stars
Yep, you read that right. 4 and a half stars for a crime caper comedy set in the 1970s, with a paunchy Russell Crowe and a ditzy Ryan Gosling eating up the cinema screen and causing more hearty laugh-out-louds than any comedy in recent years. And I mean funnier than Deadpool.
The pair play low-grade private investigators hired to solve the case of a murdered porn star, who find themselves fighting for their own lives around the winding roads and flash parties of the Los Angeles hills. Gosling’s loser solo dad, Holland March, is a treat to watch, with Crowe’s iron-fisted bully boy the perfect (smarter) foil. Best of all, these men of society’s underbelly aren’t all about the dames – the film’s love interest is March’s precocious teenage daughter (a sensational break-out performance by Angourie Rice) who becomes an unofficial third wheel on their wobbly, crime-solving bicycle.
Writer-director Shane Black clearly has a golden touch and should be in charge of all funny, clever movies to come out of Tinseltown from now on. It’s little wonder his Hollywood career became established (after he’d blessed the 1980s with his script for Lethal Weapon) during a subsequent production line of rewritten scripts as the studios called upon his panache with witty dialogue and pacy action to save their films. Then, in 2005 he inveigled his way into every film-nerd’s heart with his directorial debut Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, starring a charismatic Robert Downey Jr. (newly sober and signalling the brilliant career that was to follow) and epitomising the fast-paced meta-commentary that has become Black’s calling card.
Black was latterly given the reins to the enjoyable-enough Iron Man 3 but, although somewhat delirious, The Nice Guys is firmly of the Kiss Kiss genre – a send-up of buddy cop movies with the wittiest of dialogue, impeccable acting by two actors we know can do serious (and here just seem to be having a whale of a time) and all the meta-jokes you can handle – without having to resort to Deadpool’s on-the-nose “Hey, look, I was being self-referential!”ness.
Violent, sweary, but above all clever and satisfying, these Guys are more Awesome than Nice.