Co-writer/director Shane Black is back at it again with a buddy action-comedy film. Known for penning hits like Lethal Weapon, modern noir Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and mixed genred Iron Man 3, this time around he’s cooked up a 70’s retro-noir starring Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling. The duo come together to solve the case of an alleged suicide of a female porn star in The Nice Guys.
The film asks you to set aside your brain and understand that coincidences are going to happen from the opening sequence. A young boy is checking out his father’s adult magazine, when a car crashes into the house. The car happens to be driven by adult-film actress, Misty Mountains (Murielle Telio), the same woman the boy was just looking at in the magazine. From there, you can expect the rest of the story to follow suit.
Enter muscle-for-hire Jackson Healy (Crowe) and alcoholic/private eye Holland March (Gosling). Although they first meet when Healy breaks March’s arm for a seemingly separate case, they combine forces to search for a missing girl named Amelia (Margaret Qualley), who seems to be connected to the dead adult film star. As the two begin down the rabbit hole, they eventually run into plenty of dead bodies from the porn industry and uncover a large conspiracy.
Did I mention they allow March’s tween-age daughter, Holly (Angourie Rice) to tag along for a lot of the ride? While her character is a "girl who has had to grow up quickly by looking after her to-drunk-to-drive father" at times throughout the movie (and we can assume in the past), the humor that she’s supposed to infuse doesn’t always work. Should a little girl really be watching pornography at an adult industry party? Drunk or not, should March and Healy really allow her to tag along? (Although at times they do try to send her away.) Holly is a major part in the film who works and doesn’t work throughout the movie in such a way as to act as a speed bump rather than acceleration pad.
Crowe and Gosling give performances worth most of the buzz the film has been getting. Crowe’s straight man compliments Gosling’s entertaining physical humor. They play off each other well and own the dialogue.
Black has fully developed characters in The Nice Guys. He has nice touches of mystery and restraint with issues like Healy’s aversion to alcohol versus March’s indulgence. He hits many of the twists and turns that you expect from a film noir. Yet it’s the plot that is too convoluted, asking you to just go with it as the detectives make random connections through happenstance. I just wish the plot was as thorough as it’s likable characters.