The Nice Guys Review: Noir At its Funniest

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The Nice Guys is all about tone. It doesn’t quite nail its characters as well as writer-director Shane Black nailed them when he wrote Lethal Weapon, but what’s there adheres to the wacky slapstick ’70s feel. Mix in a bit of noir, and this film feels fresh enough to get by unharmed.

But besides Black’s sharp script, the signature tone is also established by the film’s two very game stars. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling wholly embrace this movie and joyfully play in the world. Their chemistry is undeniable, Crowe the hardened straight man and Gosling, never funnier, the alcoholic buffoon. There’s a levity and carefree feel to their performances that simply makes making movies look fun.

Set in 1977 Los Angeles, Jackson Healy (Crowe) is a hired enforcer protecting the young Amelia (Margaret Qualley of HBO’s The Leftovers) after the mysterious death of a famous porn star. Holland March (Gosling), meanwhile, is a private-eye looking for information on Amelia. Initially at odds, Healy and March must eventually work together to find Amelia and uncover whatever conspiracy she’s involved in. They’re sometimes joined by March’s over-confident pre-teen daughter Holly (Angourie Rice, stealing just the right number of scenes).

Really though, the plot of The Nice Guys doesn’t matter all that much. The film is an exercise in ’70s nostalgia, one-liners, and action-comedy. It does all those things as perfectly as the best films have done them in the past, the interweaving of them all being the film’s true achievement. So even though this is hardly boundary pushing entertainment, The Nice Guys doesn’t ever need or try to be. It’s meant to be a good time and it is. There might not be a more consistently entertaining film that comes out this summer, even if its competitors have a little more meat to them. Healy and March are so fun to watch that you won’t want to stop, plain and simple. Sometimes that’s good enough. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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