Fancy an enjoyable action movie that doesn't involve comic book characters or secret agents? Fancy a comedy that isn't about spring break or bad neighbours? Shane Black has the film for you. Coming over like a cheeky cross between Chinatown and The Big Lebowski, and set against the vibrant backdrop of 70's LA (a look similar to Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights), The Nice Guys offers fresh and interesting diversion guaranteed to at least put a smile on your face.
Confession time: I've never seen Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which I've heard is the closest in tone to this. However of the Shane Black films I have seen (written and directed), the emphasis was primarily on buddy-banter and action with a streak of wicked comedy throughout. Here it's sort of the other way around, with Black playing things primarily for knockabout laughs, yet with an undercurrent of affection and sincerity and only occasional bursts of thrilling action. Does all the comedy work? Not entirely; depending on your sense of humour, a lot of goes wide of the mark. However it would take a very dour character indeed not to laugh out loud at some point; and the likeability of the cast make up for any shortfalls. Ryan Gosling is superb playing against his usual brooding type as a bumbling, semi-competent private investigator (more Inspector Clouseau than The Driver); and he nails the physical comedy with effortless charm. Russell Crowe is hugely likeable (emphasis on the huge)as the hired muscle forced to team up with him after their cases intersect. Crowe and Gosling work very well together; displaying a natural chemistry that underpins the whole film. Angourie Rice is also excellent as Gosling's super-precocious daughter Holly. She's a smart cookie and an insufferable wiseass; and on paper that should be annoying as hell. Yet the performance and the writing make her as enjoyable as the others; she ends up being a key character in the story. The plot is also fun as well; a missing person/ murder-mystery that's involved enough to keep your brain ticking throughout, without becoming overly convoluted. And whenever mayhem ensues, Black reminds us what a superb action director he is with some dazzling old-school Lethal Weapon style shootouts and a cool set of villains to battle. There's even an obligatory Shane Black Christmas reference to boot. What more could you want?