Today: July 11, 2024

The Nice Guys

It’s fair to assume that as a child, while other boys his age were out playing baseball and trying to score with the chicks, Shane Black was hiding in a basement somewhere pouring over Raymond Chandler novels. Because the former highest paid screenwriter in cinematic history – and for good reason – certainly has that innate ability to capture hardboiled. But this isn’t your traditional gumshoes, dames and gangsters, although all of them are present in The Nice Guys. No, this instead the Shane Black vision of pulp.

1977 Los Angeles and Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) is a schlubby muscle for hire who doesn’t like his lot in life. When he’s hired by Amelia (Margaret Qualley) to ward off a couple of guys looking for her he ends up breaking the arm of private detective Holland March (Ryan Gosling). When they realise that Amelia has gone missing the pair must team up, with the help of March’s teenage daughter Holly (Angourie Rice), to unravel a mystery that includes porn, catalytic converters and a whole bunch of bad guys looking to keep certain things secret.

Watch almost any Shane Black movie and there is a checklist of things to tick off. Mismatched partners, whip smart dialogue, double crossing, redherrings, a hatred of Christmas and of course wonderfully flawed and cartoonish characters. In the Making Of that accompanies this home entertainment release, fondly called Always Bet On Black, Gosling points out that Black should have “a PHD in noir”, and that sums up the fun Black is having in wonderfully skewing that genre.

It’s not about chiaroscuro lighting, if anything The Nice Guys is quite the opposite in bursting with colour, but rather taking a set of staple ideas and shifting their perception just enough to illicit something wonderfully original. It’s worth noting that even his venture in the Marvel universe Iron Man 3 remains the most interesting Tony Stark outing, primarily because it looked at the playboy from an angle beyond comic book hero. The Nice Guys follows on from his last LA based detective comedy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and is as equally entertaining and arguably more graphic novel in origin that his last directorial outing.

Black has long been able to capture that perfect buddy essence. From his early work Lethal Weapon and throughout his writing career. But when it comes to his directing he has a knack for casting people who, on paper, shouldn’t work together. Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer, that should never have worked yet in Black’s hands it’s perfect. And with The Nice Guys he’s done it again. Gosling and Crowe, on paper, should be starring in a political thriller together or something equally highbrow. Not a slapstick period comedy. But it does, really, really well. You might not always know what’s going on in the plot, the protagonists rarely do either, but you’re always going to be delighting in the on screen quips and chemistry between the two leads.

We know Crowe can do grumpy with his eye closed but here he brings a genuine sense of pathos to his thug with a heart of gold. His scenes with young Rice, who also deserves special mention and ranks along side Iron Man 3’s Ty Simpkins as another great Black find, are hugely warm. The back and forth he has with Gosling however is bristling with such fun it will have you fondly reminiscing about staples of the buddy genre as Butch and Sundance and of course Riggs and Murtaugh. Gosling meanwhile, who is an actor who seems as comfortable doing serious as he is doing funny, steals the film. His March is a screaming, jumpy, boozing, terribly facially haired idiot. But Gosling’s timing and reactions are perfectly endearing. When his parenting is, well reversed with Holly being the more streetwise of the pair – think Inspector Gadget and Penny -, his delivery is wonderfully condescending and self deprecating. It’s the sort of performance that has you longing for more Gosling playing March.

A perfect slice of nostalgic fun, between Gosling and Crowe’s chemistry Shane Black has once again conjured a film of such fun it will have you longing for the teased sequel.

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email:

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