Shane Black uses all his best tricks in The Nice Guys

Whatever your feelings are about Iron Man 3, it was a hit, though if it wasn’t for Shane Black’s divisive addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe The Nice Guys would, probably never been made. Which would have been a shame as there’s few things that are more entertaining than Shane Black letting himself off the leash. So thank the Hollywood gods that when Iron Man 3 made a billion, this movie was rushed into production.

The Nice Guys gives Shane Black a chance to bask in all the little eccentricities that made him such a legendary screenwriter in the late eighties/early nineties, and the respected director who earned a seat at Marvel’s private table. All of his tricks are here, The Nice Guys is basically a Shane Black movie that has just jammed a bucket full of adrenaline right into its chest. All the familiar points are here: the heroes are a pair of miss-matched reprobates (like Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, and his directorial debut Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), the setting is Los Angeles, at least the sleazy seventies version of it, the script is razor sharp, and the action is hilariously unconventional.

The two leads are enforcer Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe), and the clever but pathetic Holland March (Ryan Gosling). Both actors seem to be having a blast. Crowe plays Healy like an older, bitter, but more relaxed version of LA Confidential character Bud White. The real treat though is Ryan Gosling, an actor who has become best known for a series of roles playing quiet, morally ambiguous criminals. Here he’s a bit of a sissy, a motor mouthed scheming private eye who makes money looking for senile old women’s dead husbands, even though he can see their ashes in an urn as they cut him a check. Joined by his 13 year old daughter, played by the excellent Angourie Rice who may be a better detective than both the films leads, Healy and Holland are pulled into a labyrinth of conspiracy, porn, and for reasons that will become clear an auto show.

There will be critics that think that Shane Black only has one idea that he uses over and over again, but it could be argued that that’s a good thing. No one cares if horror directors make one gorefest after another, let Shane Black be the filmmaking version of Raymond Chandler if he wants to be. Each new film can be set around the LA crime scene of a different decade.

In The Nice Guys, it feels like Black has perfected his formula, his heroes spend the entire movie on a quest to make the title even more ironic, his script is as sharp as it is brutal, and his farcical action has a believable amount of collateral damage. Why fix what isn’t broken, and The Nice Guys definitely isn’t broken.

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