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The Nice Guys

#2-The Nice Guys

Holland March (Ryan Gosling) is a down-on-his-luck private eye in 1977 Los Angeles. Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) is a hired enforcer who hurts people for a living. Fate turns them into unlikely partners after a young woman named Amelia (Margaret Qualley) mysteriously disappears. Healy and March soon learn the hard way that some dangerous people are also looking for Amelia. Their investigation takes them to dark places as anyone else who gets involved in the case seems to wind up dead.

In the late 80s, Shane Black’s Lethal Weapon script became a touchstone for saleable, hard-boiled, odd-couple buddy pics, movies that combined action, comedy and wise-assed verbal vulgarity in varying measures. 1991’s The Last Boy Scout built on Black’s fondness for smart, nihilistic profanity, predating the arrival of Reservoir Dogs, after which anything involving swearing, guns and cine-literacy would be lazily labelled “Tarantino-esque”. In 1996, Black made headlines by earning a record-breaking $4m for penning the script for what became the Geena Davis/Samuel Jackson thriller The Long Kiss Goodnight. But it wasn’t until 2005 that the writer finally turned director with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, a tongue-in-cheek LA neo-noir, the mistyped tagline for which ran: “SeX. MurdEr. MyStery. Welcome to the party.”

Now, after a stint directing the superhero sequel Iron Man 3, Black is back on home turf with this Joel Silver-produced slice of wisecracking Tinseltown intrigue from “a time of disco, sex, scandal”. Resurrecting a screenplay originally co-written with Anthony Bagarozzi in 2001, The Nice Guys serves up a typically brash fantasy about two mismatched misfits – one thuggish, one doleful – swirling around in what Black calls the “horrible combination of smog and porn” of 1977 Los Angeles. On one level, the film offers a sleazy 70s comic riposte to the 30 intrigues of Polanski’s epochal Chinatown, with the merest whiff of Altman’s The Long Goodbye and inevitable casting echoes of LA Confidential. Ryan Gosling is Holland March, a schlubby private investigator (and struggling single father) with a penchant for sleeping in the bath, whose client list includes bewildered old ladies worried about the whereabouts of their dead husbands. Russell Crowe is the flabby-but-punchy enforcer Jackson Healy, who beats people up for a living and first targets, then teams up with March.

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