Russell Crowe is bully-for-hire Jackson Healy. You can pay him to beat up your 13-year-old’s creepy drug dealer, or any number of people you think are a threat. Ryan Gosling’s Holland March is a somewhat down-on-his-luck private eye with a bad drinking habit. He’s also a widower and single father of a headstrong 13-year-old girl named Holly (Angourie Rice).
Healy and March first meet when Healy’s hired to rough-up March to keep him away from a client named Amelia (Margaret Qualley). Turns out she’s in some trouble, and when some shady characters attempt to kill Healy in an effort to find Amelia, Healy now attempts to team up with March, who’s understandably reluctant given their initial meeting.
The very notion of Healey and March’s working relationship is absurd but writer-director Shane Black and co-writer Anthony Bagarozzi construct a script that makes no apologies for its absurd twists and indelicate situations, challenging Oscar-winner Crowe and Oscar nominee, heartthrob and Internet meme Gosling to find the humanity and humor in their characters and the story.
Without divulging too many details, Amelia’s plight involves porn and a government official, allowing Black to dive into the seedy glamour of the porn scene in 1970s Los Angeles. The tone and feel -- from the costumes, set and sound design -- is fabulous. Young Angourie Rice is also a revelation, holding her own and, in some cases, stealing scenes from Crowe and Gosling.
As for those two, their bravado and chemistry, coupled with Gosling’s commitment to some of the more ridiculous tasks he’s given, lifts "The Nice Guys" above the modest expectations set by the movie’s marketing.
Given its box office competition, "The Nice Guys" is in real danger of getting lost during the summer blockbuster season. A late viral marketing campaign, featuring various bits between Crowe and Gosling, may have given the film some extra exposure, but will it be enough to give it legs for a shot at a sequel? Hopefully, word of mouth will save the day.