by Ian M. Woodington
This is how it’s supposed to be done. Though it’s not the most original flick to grace the silver screen, Shane Black’s follow-up to his instant cult classic Kiss Kiss Bang Bang has everything you could want in an action/comedy romp. A solid dynamic between its two charming yet flawed leads, a strong plot that has enough twists and turns to keep you thrilled but not lost, and plenty of quotably razor-sharp dialogue. Imagine the Lethal Weapon type meets a less obtuse Inherent Vice. Besides the return of Jason Bourne in July, it will undoubtedly be the most entertaining thing you’ll see in another summer season of mediocrity. Is anybody really that interested in a ninth X-Men film?
Russell Crowe is the muscle-for-hire opposite Ryan Gosling as the P.I. referred to by his daughter as “the worst detective in the world”. They are thrust together by circumstance and, after a couple of amusing altercations, come to find out they are both involved in a larger case of conspiracy and cover-up as they race to find the girl at the center of it all. Crowe and Gosling make a winning team with chemistry in spades and, though the dialogue they’re given may not feel as fresh as what Val Kilmer and Robert Downey Jr. had to work with in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang; they still pull it off marvelously. Between Gosling’s unfortunate directorial debut, Lost River, and Crowe’s string of misfires since 2010’s Robin Hood, these were the type of roles their fading stars were in dire need of and they both certainly look at home in a 70’s-era Hollywood detective story. For Gosling especially, this is probably the most likable he’s ever been. Well done also to the casting department for finding Angourie Rice. As Gosling’s daughter, she’s does an admirably fine job of playing a girl who can stand up to an incredibly hostile world and give some back. Here’s hoping she’s got a decent agent that will keep her in rich, multi-dimensional characters.
Shane Black, already having proved that he knows his way around a screenplay or two, is firmly coming into his own as a director (though the Christmas thing has got to stop), and I’ll be eagerly anticipating his next foray behind the camera. It’s also another excellent job from Warner’s marketing team, with a trailer that gave just enough of the one-liners and snippets of action without spoiling too many of the fun and twisty plot points. The action beats and moments of violence themselves, due to a tightly-structured script, feel earned and well-placed. Not once did I get that overwhelming feeling of action fatigue I’ve been experiencing so much in film lately (I’m looking at you, Marvel). The Nice Guys is all-around great filmmaking and one I can’t wait to revisit. I wouldn’t doubt it’ll be a day-one buy for me when it hits the home video market.
4 ½ out of 5