The Nice Guys
dir Shane Black
prd Joel Silver
scr Shane Black, Anthony Bagarozzi
with Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Kim Basinger, Margaret Qualley, Yaya DaCosta, Keith David, Beau Knapp, Jack Kilmer, Murielle Telio, Hannibal Buress
release US 20.May.16, UK 3.Jun.16
16/US Icon 1h56
The Nice Guys
Private dicks: Gosling and Crowe

bomer basinger david
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Nice Guys There's not much to this twisty comedy-thriller, but it's a lot of fun, mixing snappy dialog with entertaining action chaos. A companion piece to writer-director Shane Black's 2005 noir romp Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, this is another story about people who are always on the verge of oblivion, but survive thanks to dumb luck. Or maybe because someone smart is watching out for them.

In 1977 Los Angeles, private eye Holland (Gosling) is looking for a porn star (Telio) who's been spotted after she died in a car crash. The trail leads to Amelia (Qualley), a young woman who has hired the thug Jackson (Crowe) to protect her. After Jackson beats up Holland, they decide to work together, meeting Amelia's powerful mother (Basinger). But goons (David and Knapp) are after them, as is the notoriously ruthless assassin John Boy (Bomer). So now Holland's real problem is keeping his sparky 13-year-old daughter Holly (Rice) out of danger.

The central joke is that Holly is the only one with any real clue about what needs to be done next, while Holland and Jackson stumble through yet another rock-em sock-em chase or fight. The dialog crackles with witty one-liners, and the action set-pieces are designed with a freewheeling approach, providing a steady stream of hilariously random elements that propel the plot in unexpected directions.

Gosling and Crowe dive into the slapstick with gusto, generating chuckles by channelling classic double-acts like Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, Hope and Crosby. Their comical timing is rough around the edges, but that only makes them more likeable as swaggering tough guys who aren't remotely in control of anything that happens. Bomer is hilarious as the slick, overconfident killer. And young Australian actress Rice matches and often bests them at every step, effortlessly stealing scenes with a savvy performance that makes her a rising star to watch.

There's the hint of some bigger issues gurgling around the edges, mainly government and corporate collusion regarding environmental issues. But Black keeps this out of focus, clearly more interested in launching a franchise. More troubling is how the porn industry is merely a joke that echoes rather disturbingly in the macho attitudes and a continuous stream of naked women. This kind of edginess makes the film seem fresh and cool, but the way it endorses rather than satirises sexism leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Or at least it should.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 17.May.16

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© 2016 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall