Magazine article The Spectator

Cinema: The Nice Guys

Magazine article The Spectator

Cinema: The Nice Guys

Article excerpt

Regular filmgoers must be losing count of the Rabelaisian revelries they've been invited to of late. You may recognise the type of do. The camera ushers you through a door and, wham, the music's strafing your eardrums and everyone's letting their hair down along, often, with their underwear. There's usually a white horse grazing by the pool.

The Ballard adaptation High-Rise has one such scene, as do the latest Le Carré film Our Kind of Traitor and the Saudi-set Tom Hanks vehicle A Hologram for the King . Throw on your party shirt and roll up for another courtesy of The Nice Guys . 'Dad, there's like whores here and stuff,' says the heroine, who is no more than 12. 'Sweetheart,' replies her father, 'how many times have I told you? Don't say "and stuff".'

There's a lot to be wary of in The Nice Guys . It's a buddy caper crime comedy about the porn industry set in 1977 Los Angeles. Directed by Shane Black, who once upon a time wrote Lethal Weapon and more recently shot Iron Man 3 , it's got the moral compass of a tanked-up frat boy. In roughly equal helpings it serves up an all-you-can-take buffet of punches and punchlines. A side order of extra Marmite comes in the considerable silhouette of Russell Crowe.

But it's impossible to be snitty about a film that fizzes with such goofy energy and bright-eyed zest to entertain. The Nice Guys is a blast right from the opening scene, in which a prepubescent boy is about to thumb scholastically through a girlie mag called Cavalier when a car, glimpsed silently trundling down a hill through the window, suddenly crunches clean through the house. Its topless driver is a porn starlet called Misty Mountains whose dying words are, 'How do you like my car, big boy?'

This, it turns out, is a clue to a crime spree in which people involved in a low-budget porn shoot keep dying. The police are nowhere near the case. Instead, the two men hired to locate a missing girl called Amelia are incompetent private dick Holland March (Ryan Gosling) and meathead for hire Jackson Healy (Crowe). They first make each other's acquaintance in less collegial circumstances: Healy is sent round to warn March off the case by knuckledusting his hooter and, with a loud sound effect that advertises the film's unpenitential attitude to comedy violence, snapping his arm. …

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