The Nice Guys, released in 2016 and directed by Shane Black, is a vibrant, psychedelic, and hilariously dark buddy cop neo-noir. It stars Ryan Gosling and Russel Crowe as Holland March and Jackson Healy, respectively, who along with March’s pre-teen daughter, played excellently by Angourie Rice, begin investigating the death of pornstar Misty Mountains, played briefly by Murielle Telio, and the disappearance of Amelia, played by Margaret Qualley. The entire cast of the film play their role excellently. Russel Crowe and Ryan Gosling have amazing chemistry with each other; their dynamic is what creates most of the comedy of the movie. Ryan Gosling is uniquely hilarious in this film giving–in my opinion–one of the best performances in a comedy in the past 5 to 10 years.
The aesthetic of the movie is absolutely wonderful, making L.A. look like both a magical and depraved place. There is a surreal and dreamlike tone that pervades the movie that gives it a psychedelic feel, this style feels at home in the 1970’s setting. The characters that occupy the movie are either exploitative or morally gray in how they handle situations. Both Gosling and Crowe have dark sides to their characters; Gosling’s March is a defeated widowed single father who is looking for a quick buck and is willing to exploit people to gain that and Crowe’s Healy is a violent, but protective, enforcer who is willing to take a life to protect those around him. One would think this darker atmosphere around the characters would confuse the tone but Shane Black is able to blend the darkness and the comedy together magnificently.
The movie also explores the darker side of the film industry by looking at the seedy underbelly of the porn scene of the 1970s. Like Boogie Nights, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and released in 1997, the film takes a slightly critical eye toward the exploitation of the porn industry while also looking at how sex sells, even when it comes to politics. The combination of sex and death is interesting to look at as well; we see in the opening of the movie a young boy look at a centerfold picture of Misty Mountains, she then crashes through his house and wrecking her car and landing in his back yard. The boy goes to check and sees Misty in the same pose that is shown in the magazine, but instead this time she is bloodied up and dying. The boy modestly covers up the dead porn star’s exposed body and then the movie starts. This linking of sex and death is explored throughout the film; however, I don’t want to spoil any plot points in this review so I won’t go into much more detail regarding that subject.
This is a funny, dark, and all-around entertaining buddy neo-noir that I would highly suggest watching during Noirvember.