*** out of four
Shane Black wrote one of the best and most influential buddy action films of all time – 1987's Lethal Weapon. Now, with the noir-ish comedy/mystery The Nice Guys, which Black directed and co-wrote, it seems he's having fun with the formula. In fact, the film may just be too quirky for mainstream audiences looking for a straight action movie.
Set in 1977 Los Angeles, second-rate private eye Holland March (Ryan Gosling) reluctantly teams with thug-for-hire Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) to find a missing porn star (Margaret Qualley). Tagging along to help solve the mystery is the brains of the outfit, March's precocious 13-year-old daughter, Holly (star in the making Angourie Rice). Clues ultimately lead to, of all things, the automotive industry.
The mystery itself is convoluted and a little contrived, but I was never lost. What matters most, however, is the chemistry of the two leads, and it is fantastic. Gosling and Crowe play off each other well, and the bickering between their characters is often hilarious. One exchange has March trying to reason with a female assassin that he had a crush on: “This is not you. You're not a murderer!”
Healy: “She just killed three people.”
March: “I know, but I'm saying, deep down.”
So, please take a break from the constant onslaught of superhero movies and give The Nice Guys a try.