The Nice Guys is a kind of comedy crime caper set in 1970s La La Land, written and directed by Shane Black.
Russell Crowe plays Jackson Healy, a bruiser for hire, whereas Ryan Gosling plays Holland March, a hapless, poor excuse for a private detective whose limited success is more attributable to the input of his ‘won’t take no for an answer’ sassy young daughter, Holly (Angourie Rice), than anything he does himself.
The two, through a twist of fate, will be thrown together and form an unlikely ‘crime fighting partnership’ as they seek to get to the bottom of a number of mysterious deaths surrounding the creation of a politically motivated ‘artistic’ pornographic film, starring the excellently named, Misty Mountains.
We have of course seen this type of rather contrived scenario all too many times in the past.
Good cop / bad cop. One playing by the rules, the other not. One getting the job done, the other landing them both in all manner of scrapes. This set up however is more Alan Partridge’s ‘Swallow’ or The Fast Show’s ‘Cat & Dog’ than Dirty Harry.
With such a worn-out old concept in play, it goes without saying that the very least that The Nice Guys needs to do is bring something fresh and original to the table.
But does it?
In truth, yes, and then again no. Essentially I’m still a little undecided.
Whilst there’s no doubt that there’s good on screen chemistry between Crowe and Gosling and that the pair put as much into their roles as anyone could possibly ask of them, the underlying issue remains; some slapstick farce and occasional amusing oddball cameos aside – the kid on the Chopper bike and the old bat with the bottle-bottomed specs being good examples – The Nice Guys lacks sustained periods of genuine laughter, frequently resorting to lazy, elongated punch up and shoot-em-up scenes or high octane car chases to compensate.
But that’s not to say it isn’t enjoyable. It is. In fact it’s highly enjoyable in parts. A truly hedonistic, raucous romp around a brilliantly reproduced Seventies L.A, with a great disco soundtrack to boot. In some ways, for those of us of a certain age, the film’s retro element and wistful trip down memory lane is almost enough to give the film a pass.
What it can’t do however is disguise the fact that The Nice Guys, whilst being a crowd pleaser and nailed on certainty to spawn a dismal sequel, is by definition a comedy, and judged by such criteria, simply isn’t funny enough.