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Review: The Nice Guys

 

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Shane Black, no stranger to the buddy cop movie (having created the Lethal Weapon franchise), returns to this most familiar creative sandbox after 2013’s controversially received Iron Man 3 with what could be his best movie as a director yet.

Set in the seediest realisation of 1970’s Los Angeles, the plot revolves around two mismatched private eyes played by Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe, as they navigate the curious, sprawling case of a Porn actress’ death. The plot revolves around the two of them became the brilliance of the film relies so heavily on the pair’s chemistry. Gosling plays Holland March, an investigator of Clouseau-like ineptness whose ingenuity is as much accidental as it is intentional reluctantly teams up with Crowe’s hard-boiled knuckleduster-for-hire Jackson Healy in a web of classic coincidences, and knotty connections in the nasty networks at work under the broken Hollywood sign. Along with Holland’s young daughter Holly (played with mature excellence by Angourie Rice) who might just be the brightest of the three, the story takes the mould of a classic caper, with all the brawls and blood to boot.

The central characters accelerate the film’s winding storyline with comedic spirit, slicing into genre tropes and historical sentiments with glee. The ‘nice guys’ themselves, particularly Gosling, relish their roles, tapping into the whimsical and violent associations of the terrain. It’s steered by Black’s overtly clear understanding of what makes movies like this click, that sense of improvisation and spontaneity that trickles alongside its proceedings. What, on paper, comes off as a complex plot is, in effect, simplified by the twosome whose own cluelessness about certain situations turns the film into a wild goose chase of cause and affect. It’s great fun, and even if there are certain lessons to be learned about the dark underside of American society here, it’s not to be taken without a pinch of salt. Black clearly isn’t set here to provide a prescriptive treatment of the themes he places at the forefront of the story, he’s content to play with them in the context of a movie that exaggerates everything to an almost otherworldly extent. It’s a sharp and clever move- staying close to home while rooting the film in a distinctively pulpy sentiment.

Whilst anyone would put money on them being there, plot holes really play no part in a film that is this enjoyable. Black once again proves what he demonstrated with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, that wiry plots and controlled chaos is subordinate to pure entertainment value. It speaks a lot to the wave of criticism that he faced with Iron Man 3 then, representative of an audience that treats its mythologised characters as sacred and would rather decry the unrealistic nature of plot details whilst accepting the premise of a world inhabited by superheroes. Maybe the enjoyment factor was not there with Iron Man 3 like it is with The Nice Guys, but the point still stands- there’s something quite refreshing to be ascertained where blockbusters are dissected when we look at The Nice Guys which show us the undying appeal of affectionately crafted movies which strike the balance just right.