Set in Los Angeles in 1977, The Nice Guys is part film noir, part murder mystery involving dead porn actresses, the head of the US Department of Justice, the car industry and a multitude of conspiracy theories.
Shane Black manages to make a plot that could be formulaic – slightly amoral detectives, bad guys and a mysterious young woman who holds the key to whole story – into a funny, visually pleasing film. This is in no small part due to cinematographer Philippe Rousselot, who captures the lurid, neon glow of LA at night, and the hazy glow of the city during the day – thanks to the increasing pollution of car fumes. The costumes too are brilliant, taking full advantage of some of the more questionable fashion choices of the 1970s and running with it. In one sequence set at the party of a questionable producer, the sleaziness and excess of the era is displayed in all its glory, with body paint, mermaids and the not-so great and good of the porn industry partying together.
Ryan Gosling (PI Howard Marsh) and Russell Crowe (Jackson Healy) bounce off each other, turning from rivals, to a grudging marriage of convenience, to friendship, with Marsh being the main source of common relief, with his permanent sarcasm and inability to take anything seriously. Angourie Rice (Holly Marsh) manages to play the role of the slightly precocious child without turning into a stereotyped annoyance, occasionally acting as a foil to the two leads, whilst also helping with the mystery.
While The Nice Guys is an entertaining comedy, there is more than a touch of David Lynch to the whole affair. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Mulholland Drive at various points, as memory, identity and an opening scene involving an violent car crash.
Overall a funny and enjoyable film. 4/5 stars.