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The Nice Guys

Don’t think too much of the plot, just watch the stars and take in the ’70s production design and music

The Nice Guys
The Nice Guys

Starring: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angouri Rice, Kim Basinger.
Dir by Shane Black
Rating: ***

Shane Black is the man behind Lethal Weapon (as writer) and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (as director), both of which go to show that dude drollery is his business. Set in the 1970s, his latest, The Nice Guys (who are anything but), is not noir enough, but is still reminiscent of classic movies like Chinatown, LA Confidential and The Big Sleep. Because it is a period piece, the pace can be leisurely, without gizmo-wielding busybodies running about yelling on cellphones or hacking computers for information.

Healy and March are the kind of lowlife Elmore Leonard specialised in. Don’t think too much of the plot, just watch the stars, take in the ’70s production design and music, the cracking dialogue, and the movie is worth a watch. To add to its hazy psychedelic lunacy is a star in the making in the form of the wise-beyond-her-years Angourie Rice—the kind of 13-year-old who, when asked by her father if he is a bad person, ans­wers ‘yes’ without any qualms.

The dad being Holland March (Ryan Gosling), private eye and single father to the said teen, who, considering her father’s constant silliness and drunken stupor, is more like an exasperated parent than a kid. Holly (Rice) also tells him at one point that he is the world’s worst detective, which is almost correct.

After having his already slashed wrist broken by the thuggish Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe), March is forced to team up with him to look for a missing girl called Amelia (Margaret Qualley). Amelia is just a plot device (since she is not really lost), who keeps dashing across the screen in a yellow dress, and is caught in a mess that involves the aut­omobile industry, porn movies, assorted assassins and a corrupt system headed by her mother Judith (Kim Basinger), chief of the California department of justice. They rush from one set piece to another as the body count rises.

The best part is the perfect timing of the two lead stars, otherwise not known for comedy—the scene in the loo where March tries to keep the door open, his pants up, his cigarette straight and point a gun at Healy is priceless.

Judging by the ending, there is hope of a sequel and may be a Nice Guys franchise. The two stars definitely look like they would welcome it—the grungy look suits Crowe.

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