By Laurie Coker

Rating: A

Nice Guys can finish first when it comes to guys like Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling in particular. Their new buddy film works on a variety of entertaining levels because of their delightful onscreen chemistry, excellent comedic timing and an excellent ensemble cast. Co-writer/director Shane Black’s perfect 1977 period piece pulls together all the necessary elements to provide audiences with a fun, action-pack, hilarious story about two different types of detectives and the case of a dead porn actress, a corrupt government official and the woman who ties them all together. Black, along with co-author Anthony Bagarozzi, has created ideal scuzzy heroes and a slap-stick funny dramedy that pleases unabashedly.

Jackson Healy (Crowe) and Holland March (Golsing) find themselves reluctantly working on the same case – a teaming that brings on the laughs. Still there is a serious edge to the film – although it is not in March’s parenting style or Healy’s notable personality. Each man is a bit of a scam artist too, preying on the needs of their clients, milking them out of money for hopeless causes – or seemingly hopeless ones, anyway. March’s delightful daughter, Holly (Angourie Rice) manages to keep them out of trouble while ignoring her father’s instructions and nearly getting herself killed. Healy is brutish and thick skulled and March is a bit of a cad – and a well-dressed goof – think 1970s leisure suits and together they bumble through the case on dumb luck and a bit of actual sleuthing.

Crowe and Gosling are pricelessly well-matched, and even when Healy is roughing up March, it’s easy to love them both. Gosling’s pratfalls and silly missteps are hilarious and Crowe does what he does well – brawl. While not exactly brains (both are pretty dense at times) and brawn, the pairing makes the film charmingly engaging and wildly entertaining. Adorable Rice plays the straight-girl of sorts to the duo – many times acting more grown up than either man, even when Holly directly disobeys her dad. She provides a sentimental subplot to the story – one that emotionally draws Healy, otherwise a loner, into her and March’s dysfunctional family. Kim Basinger – looking botoxingly taut – and Matt Bonner – playing a creepy villain and others in the ensemble serve to make the movie all the more entertaining and engaging, adding to the story and its twists and turns.

The trailers for the R-rated The Nice Guys do little to demonstrate the depth (or shallowness for that matter) of the story and its characters. That said, however, the story is not wholly fresh, but the witty dialogue and the ideal delivery of it make it worth the ride. Having grown up in the 70’s, I can personally attest to the fact that Black’s depiction of the period is P-E-R-F-E-C-T – from costuming to cars – every detail in its proper place. Sequels might be in the future for Black and crew, and if they stay true to this one, any subsequent film or films will please! I am placing an A in my grade book. Bravo to this fun pre-summer offering!

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