The cool thing about "The Nice Guys," a detective story set in the 70s, is so much of it feels fresh when so much of it isn't. The buddy cop "frenemy" formula, twisty mystery plot structure, and "Good-Lord-did-we-really-used-to-dress-like-that" nostalgia are all things we've seen plenty. But director and co-writer Shane Black is an expert at all that stuff - been doing for years.
He wrote the first "Lethal Weapon" movie, but "The Nice Guys" hews more closely to one of his more recent movies, "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang," a brilliant crime comedy with Robert Downey Jr right before he became Iron Man and a piquing Val Kilmer. Actually, before we go further in this review, go rent or download it. Really. I'll wait.
"The Nice Guys" could have easily been a sequel to "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" with its similar plot structure and character dynamics. And like most sequels, "Nice Guys" isn't as good. Fortunately, once again, Black has cast two dynamite leads.
Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling are fantastic as competing private detectives. Crowe is more of a thug for hire. Gosling is a booze soaked scoundrel who will let a senile widow hire him to find her husband.
When these two guys meet, it's not pleasant. But when Crowe realizes they're working the same case, he thinks they should pool their talents and resources. Gosling isn't easily convinced.
I won't get into the particulars of the plot, which are frankly overly convoluted and murky - only to say it deals with murder and the seedy world of pornography. But despite the dark overtones, the movie often has a light touch with snappy dialogue and a cool 70s vibe.
Crowe and Gosling are an excellent pair, but the real find is 13 year old Angourie RIce as Gosling's daughter, and wise beyond her years.
"The Nice Guys" is one I'd love to see again soon, and Shane Black has become an essential filmmaker to watch.