********* 7 out of 10 *********
Director: Shane Black
Actors: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice
After working on Iron Man 3, the kind of movie where the director is always limited by the restrictions of a PG-13 film and the diktats of the studio, Shane Black got to flex his muscles again with this neo-noir crime movie called The Nice Guys. And boy, how much Black would have loved it! Bringing back those elements that made his first film Kiss Kiss Bang Bang so enjoyable, The Nice Guys has a dark undertone that isn’t depressing at all due to the superlative hilarity that the film carries and the engaging adventure it engages us in.
The Nice Guys puts together an enforcer Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) and an out-of-luck private detective Holland March (Ryan Gosling) who are searching for the same girl in connection with a porn star who met with a fatal accident. The plot gets thicker as the duo uncover one lead after another only to realise that their case is much bigger in magnitude than they had initially imagined. The story has been written by Shane Black along with Anthony Bagarozzi and it is easy to notice the dark comedy of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang resurfacing here. The break-down of the investigation in itself is gripping but what makes The Nice Guys rise above a normal detective story is the amount of effort taken in building the two leading characters, developing a chemistry between them, and making them central rather than the detective plot.
Director Shane Black expertly uses the brilliance of Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling to make the movie shine. Crowe is an over-weight grumpy guy who is paid to bully people which he does effectively. Gosling is a bumbling detective who has a dark history that he buries with alcohol. It is a strange combination but it works beautifully as the roughness of Crowe somehow fits with the suave of Gosling (no matter how drunken he is). Crowe is always a delight to watch, effortlessly fitting in any role that is asked of him, saying more with the intensity in his eyes than words could convey. Gosling has a swag that he seems to have been born with which he brings to the forefront in the movie, mixing stupidity at times with hints of genius to create a much more complicated character than what he initially looks like. Gosling’s comic timing is spot-on, drawing huge laughs at regular intervals, which is definitely a big plus point for the movie. Alongside the duo is Holly March, the daughter of Gosling’s character, played by young Angourie Rice who adds a new dimension to the movie and in fact, the trio at times look even more interesting than the duo.
The 1970s Los Angeles appearance on screen has been neatly done, though a bit more could have been pulled off in the background to make the setting stand out more sharply. Shane Black nonetheless keeps the pulse rate of the movie high pretty much throughout its runtime which is close to two hours. Maybe it lacks a chase scene or two to make it feel like a thriller, but Black instead opts to keep his actors as the stars of the movie rather than the action sequences. The music by David Buckley and John Ottman works well in the background and is never too loud nor jarring. The supporting cast which includes Kim Basinger, Matt Bomer, Yaya DaCosta and Margaret Qualley put in a good shift to compliment the leading actors and tightly bind the movie together so as not to leave any holes.
Movies like The Nice Guys, the ones that set out with a definite purpose without getting too serious and then deliver the whole package in close to perfect form, are not that common in Hollywood anymore. A world of sequels has been dominating the cinema halls and thus something like The Nice Guys is all the more refreshing as it takes us to a new place with new characters who are a joy to watch, as we jump into a new adventure. Hopefully movies like these will work out at the box-office too so that we continue to meet newer bunch of guys down the road, for after all, there is no end to the number of adventures we can embark on, is there?