I know what you’re probably thinking: Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe in a buddy, action comedy? Neither actor is particularly known for their comedic chops, and the two seem like a strange fit for a film that received incredible praise when it premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Luckily, the duo’s latest film – The Nice Guys – is written and directed by the modern king of buddy films. The master behind Gibson and Glover in Lethal Weapon. The visionary behind Willis and Wayans in The Last Boy Scout. Downey, Jr. and Kilmer in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. And, most recently, Tony Stark and that little kid in Iron Man 3. No matter how unlikely a pairing Gosling and Crowe seem, nobody can make them appear more naturally on-screen than Shane Black.
The Nice Guys features Ryan Gosling as Holland March: a struggling, often inept private eye in 70s Los Angeles. March is trying to keep his business alive on cheating husband and missing pet cases, while single-handedly raising his precocious daughter Holly (Angourie Rice) and keeping his drinking problem at bay. March soon runs afoul of hired goon Jackson Healey (Russell Crowe), who pays the P.I. an unfriendly call on behalf of a dissatisfied former client. It isn’t all bad, though: When the head of the Department of Justice, Judith Kutner (Kim Basinger), hires Healey to find her missing daughter, Amelia (Margaret Qualley), the thug chooses March as his partner. But March and Healey aren’t the only ones looking for Amelia; Judith has made some enemies in the mafia, including a relentless hit man named John Boy (Matt Bomer). With Holly in-tow, March and Healey get in way over their heads, with explosive and hilarious results.
In fact, explosive and hilarious are adjectives that give justice to every movie Shane Black makes. He revolutionized action movies in the 80s with Lethal Weapon; not only by raising the bar of thrilling action scenes, but also by adding the perfect amount of humor through witty dialogue and slapstick violence. He took the combination of action and comedy to new heights with his screenplay for Last Action Hero (a riotous adult/child combo that is mirrored in Nice Guys’ March and Holly), essentially lampooning his own tendencies in the action genre. After years of being a Hollywood pariah, he made a triumphant return with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang; a gritty, modern noir that blended his love of action/comedy with his passion for the literature of Raymond Chandler and Ross MacDonald.
In The Nice Guys, Black has managed to combine the greatest elements from all these films into an unexpected hit. While Black undoubtedly would’ve rather set the film in the 1920s or 30s, 1970s Los Angeles is a terrific backdrop for a hardboiled mystery, and allows the director to make scenes grittier and more violent. Even Gosling and Crowe brought their A-games to the project; Gosling has been praised for his show of diversity and range in the outlandishly comedic role, and critics have pointed out how effortlessly Crowe appears as the coolly collected straight-man. And, while even the duo was skeptical about working together on the project, Gosling and Crowe have a natural chemistry that would make Laurel and Hardy stutter and gasp in consternation.
You can find showtimes and tickets for The Nice Guys here, and keep checking the Eventful blog for the latest on Shane Black’s upcoming project, the next installment in the hit sci-fi series, The Predator.