A private detective teams up with an enforcer for hire. A missing person’s case, an erect nipple here, a dead pornstar there, kiss kiss, bang bang, the bodies pile up while the two try to solve the crime. Sounds familiar? Yeah, we’ve seen this before. Something similar, whether it’s in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Lethal Weapon or even the Marvel mega-hit Iron Man 3, where Tony Stark and his buddy Rhodes go on a mission. Shane Black has done this before. It’s mostly the same ingredients, in slightly different permutation, in a movie set in the ’70s. But he’s doing it better, this time. The results are actually good, a hilarious, R-rated action-comedy. And movie looks like it was made in the ’70s rather a fetishized version of that era—that’s a plus.
Despite losing to ‘Captain America vs. Iron Man’ at the box office, The Nice Guys is unarguably the better movie. I’d say it’s even better than Black’s last two movies, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3—both of which features Robert Downey Jr. trying to solve some sort of mystery. The plot is trickier (there’s a missing smut film) and thicker (has something to do with car industry in ’70s), the villain (Kim Bassinger), more memorable, and our main guy, Ryan Gosling’s down-on-his-luck private eye, is just f*cking funny (you might not have expected him to be this good at comedy). He plays off well with both Russel Crowe and Angourie Rice, who plays his daughter Holly. Their little backstory makes Gosling’s Holland March a loser you want to root for and laugh at, at the same time. Russel Crowe, on the other hand, plays Jackson Healy, a man of few words and action. Healy, who specializes in and gets paid for hurting people, is like an older, grayer, stockier version of the cop Crowe played in L.A. Confidential. He’s the perfect foil for March’s clumsy detective, who thinks he’s the smartest guy in LA.
Whereas in Captain America: Civil War and Iron Man 3, we get super-powered individuals (either thru super soldier serum or some high tech gadgetry or some cosmic powers) punching each other or saving the world, The Nice Guys features ordinary people fighting real-world monsters, trying to solve real-world problems. No, I’m not attaching the word “important” to this movie (let’s leave that word to the fanboys who raves about “relevant” comic book movies). It’s just a good and undervalued R-rated movie. I mean, how many times have you seen a movie where the good guys use the magic combination of pornography, art films, and activism to fight corrupt politicians and greedy car companies?