Los Angeles 1977: the camera pans across the iconic but crumbled Hollywood sign, whilst a retro theme plays. The skyline, illuminated by the lights of numerous cars, houses and motels, is a sea of neon stars; pink; red; orange. Suddenly, a car careens off a road, its headlights reflecting in the windows of the house it is heading towards. The silence of the night is shattered. A boy, younger than ten, who had awoken to steal his father’s copy of Playboy, cautiously approaches the vehicle that has torn through his home. Lying there in the ditch is a woman, half naked, blood dripping down her forehead. She is not moving. The boy drops the magazine, and it is revealed to us that the woman he has been ogling is in fact the woman lying dead in his garden: the adult film star Misty Mountains.
So begins the hilariously entertaining film the Nice Guys, in which Holland March (Ryan Gosling), a haphazard private investigator, and a less licensed and less hands off enforcer, Jackson Healey (Russel Crowe), seek to discover the bizarre reality behind these bizarre crimes.
This is the third feature film directed by highly regarded writer/director Shane Black, famed for penning scripts for much loved films such as Lethal Weapon, and, more recently, directing the third instalment of the Iron Man franchise. Now, at the beginning of this year, when asking my friends which films they were most excited for the conventional answers would be given: ‘Deadpool’, ‘Captain America: Civil War’, ‘Batman V Superman’ and ‘Star Wars: Rouge One.’ However, when the question was asked of me, I would say (after I finished my misguided fanboy affectations concerning Batman v Superman) The Nice Guys; an answer that would usually raise an eyebrow of suspicion and intrigue. However, after seeing the film I can safely say I was right to be excited: The Nice Guys is by far the most entertaining film I have seen so far in 2016.
Here, Black showcases his exceptional talent for comedic writing. From scene to scene jokes consistently hit their targets, and the moderately empty screen in Genesis was often full of laughter. But, comedy in this type of film- the unconventional private investigators sent to unravel a deranged mystery kind of film- is a given (although I will stress, and repeat later on, that most do not meet the standards of this movie). However, what The Nice Guys does expertly, is craft a plot that is both immensely entertaining and also quite intriguing. This is no Usual Suspects but, on many occasions during the film, I did find myself immersed in the plots unravelling narrative, although I did feel its resolution to be rather obvious.
Whereas films like Black’s own Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, present a buddy cop scenario in which we watch polar opposites bond and function, both Gosling’s and Crowe’s characters can be likened to two jigsaw pieces that complement each other perfectly, whilst also sharing innate similarities. They are human, both flawed and yet superbly able to balance each other’s weaknesses whilst connecting over similarities.
This complexity, however, is only enabled due to the superb performances given by the two lead actors. Firstly, Crowe, in comparison to Gosling, is rather understated, but in a way that is necessary for the film’s success; he is the perfect straight man, adopting an approach that is often reactionary to his counterpart’s antics. This, because his character is underqualified in comparison to his counterpart, often furthers the comedic impact of the numerous scenarios they get involved with. Although Crowe’s performance is as close as one gets to being perfect, Gosling, in my opinion, is faultless. His dynamic range that spans from troubled alcoholic to slapstick buffoon is breathtakingly terrific- trust me there were occasions where I was laughing so much I literally could not breathe. If you have not seen the film already, I would encourage you to stay away from the trailers and savour every moment Gosling is on screen, as it is, in my eyes, one of the best comedy performances I have seen in a long time.
Overall, The Nice Guys, as I stated earlier, is by far the most enjoyable film 2016 has had to offer. The writing, acting, and overall quality and feel of the movie is really remarkable. I whole-heartedly recommend you catch it before it leaves cinemas and is shrouded by the smog of franchise films and remakes.
5/5: A wacky ride that ticks all the right boxes with exceptional finesse.