In 1970s Los Angeles two detectives with whacked out moral compasses investigate a disappearance and unearth a massive conspiracy in Shane Black’s latest buddy actioner, ‘The Nice Guys’.
Russell Crowe’s Jack Healy is a rough and tumble private eye who’s seen better days. Healy doesn’t do that much investigative work instead acting as an enforcer, beating on people and telling them to stay away from other people. Ryan Gosling’s Holland March opens the door to Healy’s fist. March’s career is also fading, he spends much of his time hitting up old ladies for money; investigating dead-end cases with a hefty retainer fee. When fist meets face Healy and March discover that they have interests in common and so begins an uneasy alliance.
Simple as the set-up is the promise of the premise is great, after all, this style of picture brought Black to prominence. However, I’m sorry to say that ‘The Nice Guys’ shows us that Black himself is getting ‘told old for this shit’. It’s a real shame, all the ingredients are here for a stand-out neo noir film, however, nothing comes together in a meaningful way.
The opening sequence which has an aerial view of LA transition to an interior via a long zoom is quintessential ’70s filmmaking but this brief flirtation with the style of New Hollywood soon gives way to conventional, and not well put together, action movie fare. Speaking of the ’70s, the seedy underbelly that serves as the backdrop for most of the action is not seedy enough, in fact, the ’70s setting seems more a set-up for knowing jokes about cars and the Japanese bubble economy than anything else. ‘The Nice Guys’ definitely needed to lean into its setting and the seaminess a little more.
One aspect I can point to as remarkable is the chemistry between Crowe and Gosling, they form a convincing odd couple and play well off of one another. Unfortunately, the comedy just isn’t there. A lot of the jokes will illicit a groan instead of a chuckle and it all feels a little ‘dad humour’, which when you think about it is probably what the movie is aiming for, still there’s no need for a script packed fill of jokes to miss the funny bone this much.
‘The Nice Guys’ shows a tiredness on Black’s part; its Day Glo setting and frequent one-liners try hard to distract the audience from a feeling of ‘been there, done that, bought the t-shirt’ but this is good genre cinema executed flatly, a real pity.