I have to admit, while Shane Black as a writer/director means little to me and I easily like and dis-like some of his films, the look and tone of ‘The Nice Guys’ was a winner from the start. Opening to a 70s soundtrack that just oozes that inimitable funk feel, and the retro pink font used for the titles and movie posters, this is a love-letter to the buddy-cop and crime thrillers of the 70s across the big and small screens. It’s a refreshing era to visit in a summer of modern blockbusters.
We’ve got it all – the soundtrack, the clothes, the panoramic views of L.A, the cars, the billboards (‘Smokey And The Bandit’ and ‘Felix’, just in case you forget this IS the 70s) – it’s all here to whisk us away into the time when you could use knuckle dusters on bad-guys and attend porn-star parties and get away with it. The story, a little complex the further it goes, is straight forward at the start but twists and turns a little too much towards the end for a rather generic ending, is relevant to the time and something you fully believe to happen when corruption played a high part in using sex and money to further business…then again, it’s also relevant nowadays thinking on it!
Our stars Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling work well together, and it’s actually nice seeing Crowe a little more fuller than we remember and akin to a brutish John Goodman – still able to knock poodoo out of the perps and look cool as anything in shades and brandishing a shotgun. He’s still got that star quality as an older actor and very amusing without being made to act out of his comfort zone. Sadly the most irritating part of this duo was Ryan Gosling. I have nothing against Gosling as an actor, but here he came across a bit…what’s the word…a little hammy at times, playing up for laughs.
When the two have snappy dialogue and conversation, the buddy-cop element thrives. It’s when there is need for Gosling’s March to let out lots of whimpers, screams, gasps and shrieks that it gets a bit amateurish. I didn’t find any of these moments funny, especially his scene at the porn-star party when he falls down a hill to find an unexpected surprise. Even the goofy toilet scene just was a bit dumb for me and I may be out of touch with comedy, but none of this was amusing. The bits that WERE funny were the moments that felt most natural; quick fire wit, insults and at times nice character development exploring their inner demons.
It’s a story that doesn’t wander too far from what we’ve seen before; a conspiracy that reaches far beyond what is initially expected, and lots of corrupt people in high places are the ones behind the assassins, pimps and junkies our two “nice guys” encounter and deal with in their own unique way. It rolls forward at a steady pace and we have a likeable support from young Angourice Rice as March’s daughter who is a vital part in driving our two leads forward. Kim Basinger, quite under-used here, also makes a welcome return to the screen partnered with Crowe; former ‘L.A Confidential’ stars.
With F-bombs a plenty, a good number of surprisingly amusing deaths of innocent people (bad taste?) and plenty of sizzling 70s iconography including a toe-tapping sequence at the porn-star party, this really pays homage to a landmark era in American culture that defined many positions in power on both sides of the law, and while I didn’t find everything amusing, the story and leads, for their worth, do a good job to make this nothing but entertaining and amusing.