There is something about 1970’s Los Angeles that seems to go hand in hand with Private Investigators so smoothly, you’d think it almost sacrilegious for either of the two to exist separately anywhere else. Of course, that’s clearly not the case, especially since PI’s and Chicago in the 60’s evokes a near identical sense of codependency. However, it is LA in 1977 that is the setting for Shane Black’s latest film, The Nice Guys.
The Nice Guys presents Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as a pair of mismatched gumshoes who are hired to track down a well known adult film star, despite the fact that she appears to have died in a car accident. From that point, a series of mishaps and farcical moments steadily uncovers a sinister crime ring, numerous cover ups and plenty of corruption within the government. As befits Black’s style, there is plenty of action, but underlying that is a strong vein of black humour that sets itself apart from many of the other stories within the genre.
The driving force behind the film is the chemistry between Crowe and Gosling (and, to a lesser extent, between them and Angourie Rice who plays Gosling’s daughter.) As they go from openly antagonistic, then begrudging allies, to full-fledged partners, of particular note is Gosling’s turn as the comedic foil to the more serious (but still comical) Crowe. It marks a different role from Gosling’s previous characters within the romantic films and thrillers that he initially cut his teeth on. In contrast to this, Crowe’s character retains a lot of influence from his previous roles such as L.A. Confidential, which looks at the criminal underworld and corruption from the cops’ point of view. Fortunately the adherence to type doesn’t diminish the character in any meaningful way, and Crowe’s level-headed personality helps see the duo through the majority of scrapes.
Black’s scripting is wonderfully tight, and manages to maintain a good pace with plenty of darkly comic stings to both alleviate and enhance the violent action, whilst still feeling relatively realistic and down to earth, so much so that there is little to fault in the execution of this slick work of art. The violence and comedy may not be to everyone’s taste, but fans of the genre, or previous films by any of the leads or director will not be disappointed.
Possibly one of the bigger draws to this already phenomenal film is the soundtrack, which features a veritable cornucopia of period specific songs to get you dancing around your living room. The music bounces from sultry soul to heavy metal with nary a blink of an eye, before bringing in a fantastic disco track to really drive home the era from which this masterpiece hails.
The Nice Guys beautifully captures the 70’s pastiche and brings it back to life through a wondrous bit of storytelling. It’s a shame there isn’t more like this out there.
The Nice Guys is out on Blu-Ray and DVD from September 26th!