In The Nice Guys, two private investigators, one licensed (Ryan Gosling) and one unlicensed (Russell Crowe), go after the same lost woman who has strange ties with the adult film industry.
Shane Black directs this 1970s crime noir comedy. The film visually feels like a love letter to ’70s Los Angeles, the cityscape and its various locales a constant background presence. The period aesthetic makes for stylish sets and costuming that are lavish and eye appealing. The era is captured with precision by Black.
Gosling and Crowe have good on-screen chemistry, although the comedy becomes weirdly vaudevillian at times. This said, the tone remains relatively stable. The dark comedy is never too dark in spite of the violence and pornography-based narrative thread. Crowe, in particular, fits in squarely into the hard-boiled detective framework. This, and the appearance of Kim Basinger, makes the film feel like a throwback to L.A. Confidential with a comedy bent.
The script of The Nice Guys is at the core of this films success. Jokes are made with a wink and a nod, and none of them go out of their way to deliver a cheap gag. Instead, the witty dialogue and use of editing and cinematography to enhance visual comedy adds a level of pacing that is rarely seen in comedies today.
When people throw around the term “smart comedy,” they aren’t referring to snobby, high-brow comedy narratives that alienate more than they satisfy. When people use the term “smart comedy,” they are referring to the likes of The Nice Guys. It isn’t perfectly made, but it is a comedy that is, for a change, crafted with care. And that means a lot.
The Nice Guys is a film with a very original feel to it. It has buddy cop tropes as well as private eye/crime film tropes, but it is a new take on these tropes (tropes that haven’t really been done well in some time). Sure, some of the “henchman” characters are over the top and ham-fisted, but the minor issues with the film don’t ruin the whole.
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)