Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling display a breezy chemistry as rival private eyes reluctantly teaming up to find a missing girl in The Nice Guys, a cracking action comedy set in sleazy 1977 Los Angeles.
They’re the latest mismatched buddy duo to spring from the pen of writer/director Shane Black, whose previous double acts include Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in the Lethal Weapon movies and, more recently, Robert Downey Jr and Val Kilmer in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Unsurprisingly, the formula is much the same as before: sassy banter interspersed with brutal violence.
Crowe, chunkier-looking than usual, is great as the more heroic of the pair, Jackson Healy, an unlicensed thug with a conscience who beats up people for money. But it is Gosling, losing his cool to play boozy, unscrupulous private dick Holland March, who is the film’s revelation, showing off an unexpected flair for slapstick comedy as his character goes through a series of bruising pratfalls.
Given that one of the film’s running gags is Holland’s sheer hopelessness as a detective, it hardly comes as a surprise that the real brains of the outfit is his precocious 13-year-old daughter Holly, played by Angourie Rice (a real find). And it is she who helps the pair join the dots that link the death of a pneumatic porn star (Murielle Telio) with corporate skulduggery in the US auto industry via the disappearance of a flighty political activist (Margaret Qualley, daughter of Andie MacDowell).
The plot is as convoluted as a Raymond Chandler novel, but Black and his cast deliver the action with such brio and panache that the film remains hugely entertaining even if, like Gosling’s hapless hero, you’ve barely a clue what is going on.
Certificate 15. Runtime 116 mins. Director Shane Black
The Nice Guys available on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital Download, courtesy of Icon Film Distribution.