Shane Black strikes again with another brilliant buddy comedy
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is one of my favourite films from the 21st century. Not only did it reintroduce the world to Robert Downey Jr (with Iron Man coming out three years later) and star an underrated Batman, Val Kilmer, as a character called Gay Perry, it is also a definitive example of a contemporary pulp-y neo-noir that is also truly hilarious with a side note of surreal. I love Kiss Kiss Bang Bang so I have been impatiently waiting for The Nice Guys with desperate expectations. Thankfully those expectations were more than meet with a crime comedy that is made so much fun to watch by an awesome cast.
1977, Los Angeles. Holland March (Ryan Gosling) is a private detective, quite a good one actually although appearances can be deceptive, very deceptive… Whilst investigating the death of a porn star called Misty Mountains (Murielle Telio) he begins searching for a girl called Amelia Kuttner (Margaret Qualley) Holland comes into contact with an enforcer called Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe). More specifically Jackson breaks Holland’s arm to try and stop him from hunting down Amelia. But after a failed attempt on his life occurs Jackson realises that his case and Holland’s cases actually overlap, they may have to work together to solve their cases and stop more people from being killed.
There are three truly great things about this film. 1) Ryan Gosling is truly wonderful and properly hilarious. He appears to have a natural gift for physical comedy and it is a gift he utilizes for great effect here. His facial reactions are joyous to watch and his delivery of gags legendary. His bond with teen daughter Holly (Angourie Rice) adds a wonderful dynamic and an extra layer of depth to things. But it is his rapport with another truly great thing about this film that is standout.
2) Russell Crowe has been rocking a certain blend of grizzled touch-guy for a few years now. In this film he goes full grizzled tough-guy in such a way that, thanks to his mis-matched partnership with Gosling, makes him likeable. The dynamic between the pair is founded on hate-fear rather than hate-love, with both characters being so fatally flawed they shouldn’t really spend any time with each other. At all. Yet the pairing proves hilarious with both characters finding a balance between each other as Crowe’s punch-punchy character, whose only friend is a pet fish, somewhat softens through his exchanges with Gosling who frequently ends up rivalling Buster Keaton in terms of physical comedy.
Finally, 3) The script. Few scripts are this crisp with brilliantly quotable one liners and dialogue such as this gem of a sequence:
Holland March: Look on the bright side. Nobody got hurt.
Jackson Healy: People got hurt.
Holland March: I’m saying, I think they died quickly. So I don’t think they got hurt.
Occasionally the plotting does get too convoluted, potentially it is too overambitious in its conspiracy plotting, but for the most part it’s typically sharp Shane Black with a blend full of action, comedy, aspects of hard-bitten noir and a side of social commentary. Few films out in the cinemas at the moment are this entertaining.