Shane Black’s (writer/director for Iron Man 3) The Nice Guys starts with the detective fiction requirement: the dead body and the whodunnit. The story from there unfolds in an off-kilter fashion, the trademark of The Nice Guys comedy. Black incessantly swerves from the road like a talented drunk driver, oscillating between order and disorder to propel the plot and characters forward. But it’s all kept together with the ingredients for a crowdpleaser: comedy, sex appeal, violence, and a touch of drama.
While this is a Hollywood script, the story skirts expectations whenever possible. The characters power along a detective trope track, using this well trodden ground as a means to generate inspired comedy. Slapstick and funny dialogue abound.
Black and his team do an excellent job creating a universe for Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe, and outta-nowhere talent Angourie Rice to play in. Gosling is lovably stupid, hamming up with defective detective role with malapropisms and absurdism. Crowe: the misunderstood brute. Rice showcases skill well beyond her age as the moral and emotional heartbeat anchoring the male duo.
Comedic spirit reverberates through speaking characters large and small. There’s a visible trust among the group. Black gives them life, each memorable through quirks and winks to the audience.
The Nice Guys whole 70’s aesthetic manifests as sheer energy. Your time is never wasted. Tangents are meaningful in that they are enjoyable or move the plot forward. There’s no dawdling too long on clues or side stories.
We’re expertly sped through surprises, homosocial bonding, heartfelt father-daughter relationships, and the oddities of a fictional 70’s universe. It’s Inherent Vice’s dumber but sexier brother.
There’s little else to say about The Nice Guys. It’s not deep or innovative, but it’s a damn smart, well crafted, and funny movie. The film charms you with the eccentricity of an offbeat friend. The Nice Guy’s success lies in always taking care of the audience: make them laugh and keep them entertained.