This time around, Black sets his investigative comedy in the late 1970s. Holland March (Ryan Gosling) is a drunk widow raising a teenage daughter Holly who runs into Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe), a hothead enforcer who packs a serious punch. Literally. As a trio, they try to solve a case of a missing girl which slowly unravels the L.A. porn industry.
Similar to Black's previous pairing of Robert Downey Jr and Val Kilmer, Black's casting of Gosling and Crowe seems entirely mismatched at first. Then over the course of the movie, their chemistry and timing proves itself. Gosling seems to be a really popular actor with younger crowds and old, but I hadn't found a specific role that really caught my attention. He appeals to me more off-screen than on, but here, he does a great job with most of the physical comedy while Crowe is more subtle, landing a few funny lines here and there. Together, they share great timing and ease as two bumbling guys who are simply in the wrong place, wrong time but ready to solve a crime.
Though the story and main Gosling/Crowe duo is engaging, Angourie Rice as Holly truly shines above the rest. As the highly inquisitive pre-teen jumping the gun and outsmarting the adults around her, Holly could've come across as forced. But instead she is really kick-ass.She is great at taking down the bad guys but doesn't lose her empathy. When the mystery continue to unwind and keep us guessing, she proves to be the sharpest one of the bunch and showcases a lot of heart a la classic fictional icon Nancy Drew. Holly is easily one of my favorite characters of the year.
Black is a proven success, even a cult one, with these types of movies. The only potential downfall here is the foundation he's already established. There's nothing wrong with experimenting with old roots, but when the story and characters are really delved into, a lot of it feels almost identical to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. With the boost of another unlikely cast, he delivers another nice round of comedy and suspense, but the plot can feel a little deja vu and lose momentum towards the end. Even if the movie feels slightly repetitive, The Nice Guys is definitely entertaining and very, very nice.