Patrick Jensen’s review published on Letterboxd:
2016 has been a year with a lot of ups and downs. If you have followed my writing over the course of the year, you would know that I have also been affected by some personal issues throughout the year, and as such, I have missed a lot of 2016's films. I thought I might as well end this year on a high-note with a comedy. The Nice Guys ended up as a huge surprise for me, and it is the most enjoyable film I have seen so far from this year, and it's also my favorite among Shane Black's filmography.
Let's see why this film is so enjoyable for me. It starts with a car crash in a house, involving a buxom beauty named Misty Mountains, we have not one, but two fight scenes where Keith David is involved, we have a delightfully campy bad guy who "blue" himself Tobias Fünke-style and we have a wild-goose chase of a plot that is made enjoyable thanks to a surpisingly strong main cast. While I have enjoyed both Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling primarily as dramatic actors, their comedic range was a positive surprise for me, as they broke their usual typecasting as stoic, and sometimes wooden, leading action men through their great chemistry and comedic timing and delivery. Crowe's Jackson Healy's search for usefulness got that more enjoyable along with Gosling's Holland March and his drunken hallucinations involving a talking, smoking bee and Richard Nixon. It was a great duo to watch, and they definitely subverted my expectations for their acting range. The overall acting was great, and Angourie Rice as March's daughter Holly should also be praised for her great performance as the inadvertent sidekick to our leading men, who gradually gets introduced to the underbelly of L.A., a development she handles with great ingenuity. Also, extra points to her for making the rimjob joke work instead of making it too forced.
It is not just the performances that were enjoyable for me. The whole '70's atmosphere was enjoyable with its colorful surroundings, with great parties at brightly lit mansions contrasted by burnt up houses that served to further show the, for better or worse, diverse environment that L.A. provides. Added to that, it has a great soundtrack involving, among others, Earth, Wind and Fire as well as "The Piña Colada" song, as the music brilliantly enhanced the carefree attitude of the characters. The atmosphere of this reminded me of why I missed the humor of Pynchon's Inherent Vice in Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of it. It was an overall pleasant experience thanks to its atmosphere and direction in terms of characters and character development.
I have some minor gripes about the film, though. I kind of wish it would employ more visual jokes, outside of the violent showdown at the airport hotel which Healy and March avoids at all costs, and the cinematography didn't stand out as much as I would have hoped, as it was the settings, and not the shots themselves, that enhanced the atmosphere that the film wanted to create. Also, not every joke were that funny, and I wish we could have seen more of Matt Bomer's hilariously uptight bad guy, and it felt like a cop-out to not have Kim Basinger seduce Healy to complete that L.A. Confidential reference. Go all-out on that stuff if you include it, guys.
In conclusion, The Nice Guys was a neat, comedic surprise for me. It's mostly thanks to Crowe and Gosling's performances, and while it might not be in everyone's taste, I think you should at least give it a try. Happy New Year to you Letterboxd folks!