The Nice Guys

The Nice Guys ★★★★

The buddy cop genre has been well-trodden enough for people to think of and ridicule in its extremest form, coming up with the most wildly mismatched partners possible in order to mock the cliche idea. However, people like Shane Black have ensured that there still can be come credibility with the buddy cop, as shown with the first Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout (while also toying around with the conventions in Last Action Hero to...we'll say mixed results). Even in his transition to directing his own scripts, the buddy cop genre was something he couldn't give up, though now he had to find new ways to reinvent it to be relevant in the changing times. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang not only took an inverted look at the usual tricks of Black's style, but also noir novels and films in general, and The Nice Guys puts much more emphasis on the usual Black comedy while also stuffing itself with plenty of sardonic irreverence, playing up the glamour of the 70's in all its scummy glory.

The investigation kick up with Jackson Healy, the stoic type that beats up lowlifes for a living, being payed to persuade a detective to not investigate a missing girl. The detective, Holland March, routinely shows ineptitude in his job, delaying his services for the sake of gouging his clients paychecks and being overall pathetic because of it. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling have some stellar chemistry here, bouncing back off of each other and having their long banters with each other always be believable and enticing due to how well they blend into their characters. Gosling, in particularity, constantly steals the show, his slapstick and timing never getting old and always managing to make falling and bumbling to the solution of the crime he's tasked to solve entertaining. Gosling and Crowe have repeatedly shown their dramatic chops substantially well, and it's here that shows how well they can work with an overtly comedic source like this, always managing to give me a good laugh every now and then.

In developing the pornography-related mystery for our leads to solve, the film painstakingly recreates the setting of the 70's and managing to make it as sublime as possible. The party scene with the porno elites is the best example of that, with its warm autumnal colors and ovular walls and decor all perfectly matching the time and setting (props to the set designers in that regard). Further reminders pop up, like a billboard for Jaws 2, but it never beats you on the head with it aside from the intentionally outlandish scenes, and gives further ambiance to the seedy, down-and-dirty crime that the film really revels in peeling off one layer at a time, always giving some little revelation or detail that pulls you in and leaves you wondering how and why even if you can already guess the biggest twist of the film (like I half-jokingly did) and represents the biggest strength that Shane Black has.

If there's one thing that's usually consistent in Black's work (The Predator being swept under the rug for the time being), it's that he's a damn good writer, and The Nice Guys is no exception. Besides having several lines of dialogue that crack me up, Black knows what the audience will expect and delivers several effective misdirects on the concept of the checkov's gun and the standard "buddy cop" cliches in general. While the ending itself does get tiring after a while, especially since most of its big reveals have been shown by this point, and the main arc of Crowe's character does feel awkwardly handled in its attempt to give it depth (like, I understand what it was going for in his development now, not while watching it), it is still an entertaining as hell time and has plenty to offer through its clever script and fascinating dialogue. It may be unlikely that we'll see more of the Nice Guys (shame, since Gosling's girlish screams, for whatever reason, also got to me a lot at times), but for what it exists it's a damn good work that reinvents what its legacy had been at this point.

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