One cannot review Shane Black’s The Nice Guys without saying the term at least once, so it shall be said right here: nice. I’m a fan of Shane Black for the most part (although I greatly dislike Iron Man 3) and knowing what he can perform when experimenting with neo-noir and comedy in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, it seemed he would head back to said roots with The Nice Guys. It was everything I would have expected it to be, and at that, I had quite the blast watching The Nice Guys. I’d already hold trust in Shane Black when it comes to writing buddy cop comedies since it seems what he’s able to present just feels so vibrant in all the glory shining on the screen.
The typical roots to the buddy cop comedy come from how we have two different personalities partnered up with one another getting down to the bare bones of the mystery. Russell Crowe plays the tough enforcer Jackson Healey, and he’s paired together with Ryan Gosling’s private eye Holland March, who’s considerably inferior when it comes to the many weaknesses he presents. It’s interesting to see the two of them play roles like these because this personality for Crowe is normally what would be present from his serious performances and it’s so hilarious to watch here, and for Ryan Gosling, it feels like he’s playing a role that’s completely the opposite of the personality he embodies in Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive.
Knowing already how these two character types feel so opposite of what would be expected of the actors behind them, where The Nice Guys presents all of its glory comes from how perfectly sound their chemistry is. Russell Crowe is an actor I find myself rather frequently in a hit-or-miss relationship with (quite frankly, the two performances from him that really stand out amongst all the rest in my eyes were his parts to L.A. Confidential and The Insider) but I was always smiling at his presence here, as he’s especially hysterical. Gosling already seems ready for the part and he brings a sense of absurdity that racks up more laughs. Where I’m also rather interested in here is seeing where Angourie Rice can move onto in her future, as she presented what truly is a hilarious child performance.
The Nice Guys plays along with a style that feels very evocative of neo-noirs from the 1970’s, whether it be from the structuring or the visual look. There’s a whole lot about The Nice Guys which is very much shouting out for the noir fan within one (which obviously I’ve been a fan for the longest time) and there’s a whole lot that appeals to the sensibilities of such. It’s a film that perfectly captures what one would remember from such a decade and with the way Shane Black lets all of it shine under his own direction, it almost feels like riding through nostalgia within the best sense, adding more to the glory which the set pieces and the costumes were bringing about. It’s also clear that there’s much more of a love even to neo-noir from the reunion of Russell Crowe and Kim Basinger since 1997’s L.A. Confidential.
For at least how consistently entertaining The Nice Guys was, there’s a small sense of disappointment at least with the odd pacing. Most of the time it seems like it’s flowing perfectly fine, and for that I can give it a pass but when it’s at its very worst, the rough patches can be quite big for they give off tones that could have been dangerous for the film to stay in, had it remained with those obvious marks. While it’s not deniable that it can flow almost like the very best of neo-noir under moments where Shane Black and Anthony Bagarozzi’s writing clearly is letting it shine, the style to some extent is a bit suffocated with the inconsistencies that come about occasionally.
At the very least, most of The Nice Guys was entertaining enough within all of its glory and it just left a satisfied grin on my face. It always knows how to move along so perfectly in all of the glory it so wonderfully evokes from its neo-noir roots, and it’s made much more entertaining just watching the absurd bonding between Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling blossoming from beginning to end. For Shane Black, I’d most certainly want more of this and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, less Iron Man 3.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Warner Bros.
Directed by Shane Black
Screenplay by Shane Black, Anthony Bagarozzi
Produced by Joel Silver
Starring Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Keith David, Kim Basinger
Release Year: 2016
Running Time: 116 minutes