The buddy comedy has struggled to implement itself on a 21st Century audience, with only a few standouts that can rival the likes of Lethal Weapon, Blues Brothers and Planes, Trains and Automobiles. For Shane Black, director of The Nice Guys, crafting buddy comedies has become something of a niche talent, first bringing us the iconic Riggs and Murtaugh in Lethal Weapon, and then continuing the trend with Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer in the brilliant Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, even his efforts with Iron Man 3 had strong moments of buddy comedy greatness. Can The Nice Guys continue Black’s stellar record?
First off, Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe have spectacular chemistry, with the film enjoying its strongest moments when their characters are effortlessly bouncing off each other, with Gosling’s conventional funny man combining joyously with Crowe’s (mostly) straight laced manner. They are an absolute treat to behold, I could have watched Gosling and Crowe do their taxes and have been entertained. Gosling, in particular, thrives in his role as Private Investigator Holland March showing a deft comic timing and charm that you can’t help but be swept up by.
It’s worth noting that these characters aren’t just one-dimensional one line machines, with Black showing little snippets and suggestions of their past that don’t slow down the main narrative, but cleverly give us all we need to know about the characters whilst also planting seeds for the film’s final pay-off. The character arcs are small and subtle but meaningful, especially with Crowe’s Jackson Healy just wanting to help people for a change, being the most poignant of the film. We can safely add Gosling and Crowe’s mismatched duo to Shane Black’s best work, perhaps even rivalling the likes of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon.
There’s a mystery at the centre of The Nice Guys plot, kicking off with the alleged suicide of a famous porn star and continuing with Healy and March trying to track down a girl for their own individual investigations, clumsily stumbling onto a conspiracy that involves organised crime and an experimental film. It’s not the most cohesive or satisfying of mysteries but it serves its purpose of throwing Gosling and Crowe’s characters in as many ridiculous situations as possible, gifting us some hilarious moments that feel right at home in Black’s sharp and witty script. It is overwhelmingly clichéd to say, but it’s not about the destination with The Nice Guys but the exhilarating journey through various 70’s set pieces.
There’s an undeniable feel good factor radiating from The Nice Guys, with the magnetizing chemistry of its leading men combining deliciously with the wacky scenarios that Black contours, bolstered by a superb 70’s soundtrack that you didn’t know you needed in your life. There are small discrepancies with the plot and a hallucination sequence that feels awkwardly out of place but you will be having too much fun hanging with the main characters that you won’t care to look too closely