Alex Casey is a staff writer for New Zealand pop culture-obsessed website The Spinoff and columnist for the NZ Herald.

Movie review: The Nice Guys

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Ryan Gosling as Holland March and Russell Crowe as Jackson Healy in The Nice Guys.
Ryan Gosling as Holland March and Russell Crowe as Jackson Healy in The Nice Guys.

Be it Outrageous Fortune prequel Westside, the posthumous presence of Bowie, or the inexplicable resurgence of flared jeans, it's pretty clear that the 1970s are the place to be in 2016. Mystery buddy movie The Nice Guys fits into this current pop culture mood like a snug-fitting turtleneck, hurtling us back to 1977 with a little help from Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling and a whole lot of mustard-coloured home decor.

Directed by Shane Black (Iron Man 3, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) the film follows Holland March (Ryan Gosling) and Jackson Healey (Russell Crowe), shady, down-on-their-luck characters who either stalk or hurt people for a living in the grottiest parts of Los Angeles.

Their wretched paths intertwine after the disappearance of a mysterious young woman named Amelia, forming the most incredible cinematic duo since Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Twins. Together they must find her - but they aren't the only ones looking.

Gosling and Crowe have an unlikely chemistry and it's palpable as they set out on their dangerous quest to find their target.

Weaving through a labyrinthine conspiracy, people seem to end up either dead or seriously maimed at every turn.

Throw in a few porn stars, gangsters and a precocious 12 year-old child who definitely shouldn't be there, and you have a recipe for a buddy movie that's just a touch rougher than Milo and Otis.

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From his director's chair, Black has blended together his favourite shades of action, black comedy and crime into some unholy cross-genre combination.

There's just as many laughs as there are gunshots and Gosling's slapstick physicality and Crowe's wry dialogue bring some much-needed light to the dark. And as if Gosling slipping over repeatedly wasn't enough, you can delight in the greatest hits of the late 70s from the likes of the Bee Gees, Earth, Wind and Fire and Al Green.

The Nice Guys won't change anyone's life but the two lead performances are worth the ticket price alone. After my biannual rewatch of Crazy Stupid Love recently, it's great to see Gosling again able to flex his comedy muscles instead of just his actual muscles. Yes, he has the torso of Adonis, but he also has a hell of a knack for comedic timing. Crowe skilfully maintains the face and energy of a sad balloon the entire time, the perfect companion to Gosling's labrador puppy energy. Look out for some stunning cameos from Kim Basinger and Jack Kilmer, brother of Val.

The sprawling story will keep you guessing as to whether or not the bumbling pair will manage to pull anything off. Yes, he wrote Lethal Weapon, but Black's characters this time around couldn't be further from typical modern action heroes. When the moral centre of the film is an adolescent girl, you can't expect much from the adults. They are twisted and cynical, butting heads over the smallest of details.

The Nice Guys is clearly Black's very particular vision for a modern day crime screwball comedy, and it comes as a fully realised assault on the senses. It might not be everyone's cup of tea to see a car drive through a house or a drunken Gosling fall off a balcony, but it will have others hollering in the aisles.

It's dark, it's violent and it's often very stupid, but it is saved from ridicule by the performances from the two top-billing names. Crowe has defiantly thrown his hat back in the relevance ring, and Gosling has proved himself yet again to possess an onscreen charisma that extends well beyond his abs. Nice one, guys.

Rated R16
Showing now.

- Spy.co.nz

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