The Nice Guys came and went from theaters last summer and received critical acclaim. Now in home release, it is making quite a few top ten lists for 2016, practically being anointed the “One That Got Away.” How fortunate, because it’s every bit as amusing and charming as an 80’s (or 70’s) type of buddy-cop movie ought to be.
In the swingin’ 70’s, bumbling PI Holland March (Ryan Gosling) suffers — literally — a bad run-in with tough-guy-for-hire Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) when investigating the case of a missing girl (Margaret Qualley), and a connection to a dead nude pin-up girl (Murielle Tello). Having the mission in common, Healy and March form a reluctant partnership more cantankerous than Riggs and Murtaugh.
And March’s adolescent, yet precocious, daughter (Angourie Rice) tags along as a quasi sidekick, proving to be more inquisitive and detective-like than the other two. Groovy — not to mention cheaper than a babysitter, right?
Shane Black was in charge of this action comedy, his first theatrical release as a director since Iron Man 3 (everyone knows how that turned out), and co-wrote the screenplay with Anthony Bagarozzi.
Bringing a writing partner on board was a smart choice that freed up Black to focus on directorial duties. Black may have wanted to minimize his own responsibilities in order to avoid mistakes made on Iron Man. (There is no Mandarin here, so not a problem.)
Selecting Nice Guys as his project, where there is no (or very little) CGI and stunts are live and in-camera, was also prudent logistically. Everything that makes the film special is performance- and scenario-driven. Take the main characters: Healy, a no-nonsense Irish guy who is bound to lose it and beat somebody up, and March, who has the worst luck and might be the most injury-prone private eye there ever was.
The best repartee is served up early when Healy shows up at March’s house for the first time to deliver a message and break his arm like it’s a formality; and then a little later when they have finally teamed up, combing an awkward student protest for their perp turns into nitpicking about air pollution.
You might think toadying critics are trying to get you to buy into something because they enjoyed it and you should too — and maybe because they want to see Shane Black redeem himself — but The Nice Guys is more than hype. It looks like a classic reminiscent of Lethal Weapon and 48 Hrs., and feels like a cult classic in the making.
Currently on DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD, it’s an entertaining selection to seek out with tongue-in-cheek commentary and shoot-em-up action aplenty. So, there is that too.