The Nice Guys (4 stars)

The Nice Guys

Cannes 2016: Sparkling comedy with Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe as the titular investigators

‘You’re a detective who can’t smell?’ balks Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) as he uncovers yet another failing in Holland March (a superb Ryan Gosling), the man he has, perhaps unwisely, teamed up with. In Shane Black’s obscenely entertaining period comedy, Healy is the gruff muscle operating outside the law, while private dick March brings a mere squeak of legitimacy to their investigations, alongside style without swagger, spectacular cowardice and a fatal weakness for a free bar.

Los Angeles, 1977, and the far-from-professional pair delve into the conspiracy surrounding the murder of porn star Misty Mountains (Murielle Telio), whose final skin flick holds the key to local corruption. March is the single parent of 13-year-old Holly (Angourie Rice), meaning that the sleazy subject matter is nicely countered by the inconvenient presence of this more competent chip-off-the-old-block.

Although a shade overlong, Black and co-writer Anthony Bagarozzi have penned a real crowdpleaser – a sublimely silly, wonderfully inappropriate and frequently hilarious film, which deftly blends buddy movie traditions with deliberately farcical action and noir-esque machinations. It’s like a commercial cousin to the recent Inherent Vice, riffing on Black’s own Lethal Weapon, as well as such diverse fare as Paper Moon, The Long Goodbye and The Pink Panther, while the presence of Kim Basinger leads to a fitting reunion with her LA Confidential love interest Crowe.

Those who think of Gosling as being too-cool-for-school will be delighted by his newfound propensity for humiliation. And, although he’s playing the relatively straight man, Crowe shows a hitherto untapped gift for comedy; or rather for bemusement at the expense of his consistently game co-star, whose tangle with a toilet cubicle is a highlight and whose stupidity saves their asses on more than one occasion. The pair bounce so successfully off one another that this feels like a double act for the ages, in a film that actually deserves to spawn a sequel. For, nestled amongst the fish-flinging, sucker-punching and nose-diving off buildings are the beginnings of a beautiful friendship.

Screening as part of Cannes 2016. General release from Fri 3 June

The Nice Guys

  • 4 stars
  • 2016
  • US
  • 1h 56min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Shane Black
  • Written by: Anthony Bagarozzi, Shane Black
  • Cast: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice
  • UK release: 3 June 2016

Los Angeles, 1977: gruff enforcer Jackson Healy (Crowe) teams up with rather useless private eye Holland March (Gosling) to investigate the murder of a porn star. Obscenely entertaining period comedy from director/co-writer Black, sublimely silly and wonderfully inappropriate. Gosling is superb, while Crowe displays a…