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'The Nice Guys' review: The throwback quality makes this film worth a watch

The movie opens in the Hollywood Hills of 1977, where a smog scare and Brazilian killer bees dominate the headlines.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Jun 03, 2016, 10.05 AM IST
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The movie opens in the Hollywood Hills of 1977, where a smog scare and Brazilian killer bees dominate the headlines.
The movie opens in the Hollywood Hills of 1977, where a smog scare and Brazilian killer bees dominate the headlines.
Rating: ***

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer

Director: Shane Black

Consider this an imaginary matchup: Sexy Gosling vs. Funny Gosling. Going by The Nice Guys, a loose and lively take on the Los Angeles detective noir, comedic Gosling has this in the bag.

The movie opens in the Hollywood Hills of 1977, where a smog scare and Brazilian killer bees dominate the headlines. Washed-up schmo Holland March (Gosling) is a local private eye, who would rather spend his time downing bourbon than chasing dead-end cases. When an adult movie star named Misty Mountains is found murdered, March is forced to team up with gruff enforcer Jackson Healy (Crowe). While the investigation that follows barely makes any logical sense, it does what it’s meant to: act as the set-up for some hilarious sequences involving these bumbling ne’er do wells. Black is a veteran of LA crime on screen and the territory he mines here is similar to what he explored in Lethal Weapon (1985) and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005).

'The Nice Guys' review: The throwback quality makes this film worth a watch
Image: The Nice Guys (Facebook)

He evokes a specificity with his 1970s references: sleazy porn parties and anti-government protests. The film also traffics in dark subjects and strong violence but to Black’s credit, he keeps the tone sunny and the main focus on the laidback chemistry between the two detectives. Crowe tends to often be a boorish presence in many of his roles but in this case, his performance is tinged with a wry self-awareness, even when he’s playing the straight man to Gosling. The latter takes to his goofball role like fish to water.

'The Nice Guys' review: The throwback quality makes this film worth a watch
Image: The Nice Guys (Facebook)

Still, the throwback quality that makes this film enjoyable is what limits its scope in the end. The buddy cop/detective genre had a golden run in the 80s and 90s but it was a fundamentally formulaic and hyper-masculine world. Black’s latest is a zippy upgrade — it doesn’t break the mould but it makes up for that with style and sizzle.
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