Slick and silly.
Shane Black’s The Nice Guys’ logline could be something along the lines of:
Sentimental strongarm and lovably mopey PI delve into missing girl case and are eventually lead into LA’s Adult Section where if you have the sway anything’s barely legal.
That’s great, watchable, probably, but The Nice Guys is a comedy throughout. It has this storyline that’s ever-present and complicated that subverts your expectations (take the opening of Gosling in the bath wherein first you see just his head, then his dry top half of his clothes so you think the tub is empty, then you see it’s full of water). There’s quiet, tender moments and grand nail-biting action set-pieces, a concluding few scenes with tension comparable to The Chaser for me. It has these highs and lows and still hits the mark with so much of the comedy riddled throughout that left me breathless every few minutes. Slick goodies, slick baddies, slick sets and costumes and silly jokes that undermine it all perfectly; I’m glad I didn’t see X-men instead.
Kind of like in Altman’s Short Cuts the air in town is the invisible driving force behind the film’s plot. Bear-like Crowe and Robert Downey Gosling bring tonnes of energy in their big shades and bright shirts, enamouring us with witty quips and funny petty arguments, slapstick and Jackie Chan-like fancy fight scenes. It felt original, not encroaching on the trodden Hollywood porn house/studio feel of Boogie Nights but instead mixing it with the urgency of Chinatown or LA Confidential and then watering it down with the physicality and silliness of Rush Hour’s frenetic duo.
At 116 minutes it could be a little long for some viewers though I respect that it tended to the relationship-building scenes between the characters properly, showing restraint in the comedy at the right moments when needed which ultimately pulls us into the conflict when that restraint has its arse slapped and sent packing.
Definitely watch this film.