If you look up “Detroit ghost town” on Google images, or just check out an aerial view of the city on Google Maps, you’ll be able to see fairly significant empty swathes of derelict land and be presented with some stark images of post-industrial decline in what was one of the USA’s great cities.
There is certainly a fascinating and cynical movie to be made about the boom and bust of the home of the American motor industry. Shane’s Black’s The Nice Guys is not that movie. In what is perhaps its only misstep, The Nice Guys touches upon the fortunes of Motor City, and indeed the relative state of the 70’s porn industry, in pessimistic fashion, but fails to really give its audience anything like a substantial subtext to the bedlam.
This observation may seem like a complete irrelevance or something approaching a critical non-sequitur, but Shane Black’s The Nice Guys,excellent though it is, does tend to badger on about the fortunes of the automobile (or grumble flick) industry in a way that seems curiously forced. Perhaps it’s best just to approach it from a purely structural point of view? Maybe it’s just a not-hugely pertinent contrivance that allows Black to hang a very funny buddy cop movie over its skeletal structure? It’s certainly provided me with a largely irrelevant opening of my own.
In late 70’s Los Angeles, Holland March (Ryan Gosling) is an alcoholic private eye in the employ of the auntie of a recently deceased porn star. She believes her niece is still alive and sets March on a trail that involves an elusive girl named Amelia (Margaret Qualley), bringing him into contact with a gruff enforcer named Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) who warns him off the scent. After an attempt on his life, Healy realises that his protection job is deeply and suspiciously linked to March’s, forcing the two to team up.
Black’s comedy incorporates slapstick, sleaziness and excessive comedic violence that blends together nicely with both Crowe and Gosling showing flair. Gosling is a premier deadbeat alcohol dad, shambling through his case, lucking into clues and inevitably falling into drinks. Crowe’s tough guy plays up the loveable schlubbiness nicely and the two have good chemistry as they blunder along. Angourie Rice as Gosling’s put-upon daughter is arguably the star of the show, driving him around in his car and keeping her father on the straight and narrow. Imagine The French Connection but one of the cops is a hopeless drunk and the other a luckless, loveable goon.
Its sub-text is garbled and I’m not convinced there’s a point to be had anywhere here, but the laughs come in droves without ever feeling obnoxious or too infantile.
[rating=4] | Chris Banks
Mystery, Comedy | USA, 2016 | 15| Icon Film Distribution | 26th September 2016 (UK) | Dir.Shane Black | Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe, Angourie Rice, Kim Basinger, Matt Bomer | Buy:[Blu-ray]