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The Nice Guys
Genre Crime

Shane Black is the guy who wrote and directed Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang... the unconventional comedy crime caper starring Robert Downey Jr., Michelle Monaghan and Val Kilmer. While some would jokingly argue Kilmer first played a gay character in Top Gun, this was Hollywood's first openly gay character to front a feature film. While the title sounds unusual and strangely South African, the film was a dark horse success as a private eye, a struggling actress and thief masquerading as an actor converged on a murder mystery.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it" must have been the thinking with Shane Black's The Nice Guys, which echoes the buddy chemistry and playground at the heart of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. As the screenwriter who authored Lethal Weapon's buddy cop chemistry, he was perfectly poised to bring this odd couple caper to life after racking up a few more directorial credits with Iron Man 3. The Nice Guys follows a mismatched private eye and a hired enforcer, who investigate the apparent suicide of a fading porn star in 1970s Los Angeles.

Tracking and refining the formula of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, Black's paired two of the most unlikely actors in Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as Jackson and Holland, taking the story back to a seedy and vibrant '70s scenario. Russell Crowe is in unfamiliar comedy terrain, but does remarkably well as the tough, no-nonsense straight man to Ryan Gosling, whose high-strung gumshoe character makes these Laurel & Hardy archetypes hilarious together. Their chemistry works surprisingly well and the script sparkles with funny dialogue and one-liners as the two fumble their way across Hollywood in search of clues, which usually land in their laps.

The bumbling Frank Drebin style detective work is a few shades short of being a spoof, allowing the characters to straddle reality and detective story fiction as they stumble in and out of trouble. It's a breath of fresh air, which while seedy at times, is redeemed by the likable co-stars and their funny, unpredictable misadventures. Imagine the atmosphere, mood and setting of the Bob Crane biopic, Auto Focus, meets Black's offbeat and dark buddy comedy, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, and you'll have a good idea of what to expect.

Crowe and Gosling's surprising chemistry rallies that of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, making a sequel seem inevitable. While the co-stars are the life force of this outrageous crime comedy, they're reined in by an adept Angourie Rice as Holly. Playing a spanner-in-the-works that actually works, she gives us a fresh, naive perspective on the underground action. While we worry about her exposure and safety she's usually the one steering her father and his colleague out of danger. As if Black was playing around with Alice in Wonderland references, it's Holly's journey that seems like she stumbled down a rabbit hole in order to save the March Hare and Mad Hatter.

This isn't the Alice in Wonderland experience you may be accustomed to and The Nice Guys does dip into bad taste quite knowingly. The violence can be intense, the coarse language is in keeping with the setting and the porn industry backdrop means there are some scenes that involve drug use and nudity. While these unsavoury elements are tempered by the silly tone, they may offend sensitive viewers.

Otherwise, there's never a dull moment in this zany comedy that keeps a taut line as we're lowered into the shroud of darkness encapsulating the murder mystery. The '70s fashion, sets and Anchorman swagger give it tongue-in-cheek charm. The out-of-their-depth action and suspense creates plenty of unexpected laughs, while the sterling comedy performances make these typically dramatic actors seem like they've been holding out on us. The plotting isn't as critical as the style and mood, making this dark comedy more about the the slap-around entertainment and bound to leave a smile on your face.

The bottom line: Hilarious

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