5-Star Review: ‘The Nice Guys’ is Pure Shane Black

In a mainstream cinema landscape that often seems driven by concession – to the studio, the investors, the marketers, the distributors, certain demographics, the foreign market, the domestic market, the Stone Cutters – there are few things more satisfying than seeing a populist filmmaker getting to do exactly what he wants on a large canvas.

Shane Black’s The Nice Guys makes concessions to nothing and nobody – it is about as pure an expression of the writer/director’s sensibilities as you could ask for.

For the uninitiated in the room, that constitutes a witty, violent, spry action comedy that can be relied upon to feature quip-spouting tough guys, uniquely-rendered henchmen and scenes featuring someone falling off a building and a car driving through a house.

As crummy private eye Holland March and a scuzzy enforcer Jackson Healy, Gosling and Crowe demonstrate bountiful chemistry, especially when butting heads.

The film’s sleazy portrayal of Los Angeles is enhanced by the late ’70s period setting, which also makes it easier to picture Healy as a slightly older and calmer version of Bud White, Crowe’s character from LA Confidential.

Black’s affection for the hard boiled tough guy tradition comes through loud and clear in how he subverts the archetype here. His gift for casting extends to the tiniest supporting characters, whom Black has always shown an affection for highlighting, and does so repeatedly here. Keep an eye out for Jack Kilmer, the son of star Val.

There’s a cynicism in The Nice Guys that never feels glib, but instead provides a welcome contrast to the… niceness… that currently permeates the action genre.

‘The Nice Guys’ Movie Times

More Shane Black Goodness on VOD: Iron Man 3, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Lethal Weapon