*** out of ****
Shane Black’s violent noir comedy The Nice Guys is a film that feels like a reprise to his best work, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. The new movie stars Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as different brands of the sleazy private detective: Crowe's character is experienced and dangerous; Gosling's character is amoral and incompetent. The two don't get along but wind up crossing paths on the same case of a missing porn actress in 1970s Los Angeles.
Gosling makes a pretty funny person but Crowe looks as if he's struggling to understand the energy required with certain one-liners. The struggling energy between them in some scenes is helped with the disruptions of Gosling's character's intellectually superior pre-adolescent daughter (Angoury Rice) who wants to take part in the investigation. The chemistry manages to function but not to the same effect that Harmony, Harry, and Gay Perry had in KKBB.
Co-written by Black and Anthony Bagarozzi the movie takes ironic nostalgic glee in the many ways that the past was an uglier time. Black continues his fondness for a convoluted noir plotting and recently stated in an interview that he never sets out to make a comedy, but as he writes, the jokes keep coming. As expected, this movie has plenty of fun setting up clichés and subverting them with hilarity along with plenty over over-the-top instances of horrific violence for shock laughs. I liked it.