'The Nice Guys' review: Gosling-Crowe bromance hits comedic jackpot
The Nice Guys
- Starring: Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe, Kim Basinger, Matt Bomer
- Directed by: Shane Black
- Written by: Shane Black, Anthony Bagarozzi
- Duration: 116 minutes
Everyone old is new again in the world of Hollywood maverick Shane Black. His latest release as a writer-director is The Nice Guys, a wicked crime comedy featuring Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe.
It is funny — in a transgressive way because we laugh at tragedy. It creates great on-screen chemistry between Gosling and Crowe — as brute adversaries who partner up as private eyes to solve a criminal conspiracy. And it blows your mind with its sense of absurdity — even while making the crime caper count. Arms get broken, faces get punched, necks get strangled, bullets fly, people die.
The Nice Guys is set in the 1970s in Los Angeles; it echoes a film style dating back to the 1940s; yet the film is of the 2010s for its hip humour. That tells you something about how much fun it is to see a Shane Black opus like this one – or his brilliant directorial debut, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005). The shambling creator of the Lethal Weapon franchise knows his film history, especially in the crime category, and delights in genre mash-ups.
The new film channels the old film noirs Hollywood did not know it was making at the time. It took French filmmakers and critics of the 1960s to tell Americans that they had already perfected this genre, to which the foreigners lovingly gave a name. Film noirs featured hard-boiled, pulpy crime stories that took place in bleak rooms and back alleys with long dark shadows heightening the mystery and danger.
For The Nice Guys, Black and his writing partner, Anthony Bagarozzi, invoke the style but Black shoots in colour to recreate L.A. of 40 years ago. There is a MacGuffin plot about the auto industry, pollution and murder, but that is not really the point. Some details may be rooted vaguely in reality, but the movie’s focus is really on the two characters Gosling and Crowe play with such reckless abandon and passion. Neither actor has ever been this funny before.
Gosling is an alcoholic private dick who acts like one while trying, often unsuccessfully, to be a good single dad. His 13-year-old daughter (played by the wonderful new Australian discovery, Angourie Rice) is the most mature person here and the movie’s moral centre.
Crowe is an overweight, world-weary, brass-knuckle enforcer who blunders into Gosling’s life and ends up as his partner. Slung together after a painful beginning, they elevate each other’s game.
Then, together with Rice, they make us care about their wonky characters in a movie with enough bottom to come out on top.