By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
Acclaimed screenwriter Shane Black is not only back with an awesome new script, but has also returned to the director’s chair for an absolute riot of a comedy that had me constantly laughing, often to the point of tears. The Nice Guys may turn out to be the funniest movie of the summer season, and it is one of the funniest movies of the year. Fans of Black’s writing will not only sit back and enjoy some of his usual trademark plot devices and character traits, they will also love some fresh and exciting comedic writing in addition to some winks and homages to classic cinema. The Nice Guys may not be Black’s best screenplay (Lethal Weapon), and may not feature his best directorial work (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), but it is arguably the funniest movie he has ever made in his career.
Private Investigator Holland March (Ryan Gosling) and thug-for-hire Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) may have conflicts of interest, but must reluctantly work together to solve a missing persons case. The unlikely duo are both working different angles of a case involving runaway Amelia Kuttner (Margaret Qualley), who may or may not be connected with the bizarre suicide of porn actress Misty Mountains (Murielle Tello). Bumbling and often inept, March and the street-wise Healy discover that there is much more to the job than they had anticipated. As they dig deeper and uncover more clues and facts, other interested/connected parties surface and threaten their lives.
Black is back and in top form with a movie that not only pays homage to noir tropes, but also satirizes them. The talented writer/director obviously has much love for classic cinema and that love is on full display here. In addition to noir, Black honors both slapstick and screwball comedy and does it so superbly. I don’t remember the last time I laughed to the point of tears so much in one movie. At the its heart, the movie is a buddy film with two of the most unlikely lovable characters.
March and Healy really are scoundrels, but do have some redeeming qualities. Healy does have violent tendencies, but seems to live by a code that makes him a tad selective about whom he hurts or kills. March is a money-grubbing alcoholic with delusions of intelligence and parenting skills; however, he can be rather sweet and kind in moments. Shane Black’s writing and the acting by Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling make these characters so fun, so lovable, and thoroughly entertaining. Crowe is perfectly cast as the brutish, no-nonsense “enforcer” who obviously has skills which could serve him well as private investigator. Professional private eye March definitely lacks some of the skills necessary for the job and tends to let other personal factors and issues interfere with his work. These personal flaws provide for so much of the hilarity that happens in the film, and Gosling offers what is probably the funniest performance in his stellar career.
The movie also features an impressive turn by young actress Angourie Rice who shines as March’s precocious and smarter daughter Holly. The Nice Guys also features solid work by Matt Borner, Margaret Qualley, Yaya De Costa, Keith David, and Beau Knapp. The movie also stars Kim Basinger who portrays Amelia Kuttner’s mother Judith. I actually wasn’t all that impressed with her work here. Her performance comes across as flat and lacking in passion. It doesn’t take that much away from the movie overall, but does stand out somewhat.
Regardless of this small issue, the film should most definitely be nominated for comedy film awards next year. Though it isn’t the most original comedy of the year, it delivers laughs by the bulk. I must highly recommend The Nice Guys for not only fans of Shane Black, but for people who love smartly written and superbly executed comedy. This film is my movie pick for this week and I think it might end up becoming one of my favorite movies of the year.