Private eye Holland March (Ryan Gosling), the main character in the new free wheeling comedy-drama Nice Guys
, which opens areawide on Friday, has a good scam going. He finds people who pay him big bucks to hunt down missing persons.
When he finds down the missing person, he goes back to the client who hired him and says he has a hot lead but needs more cash to get the job done. The scam usually works, and Holland, who’s not much of a fighter, manages to steer clear of trouble in the process.
But in the case of Amelia (Margaret Qualley), he runs into a problem. She hires though guy Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) to keep Holland at bay. The brass knuckle-wielding Jackson is quite the thug too. He sucker punches Holland and breaks his wrist after he busts into his house one afternoon to deliver the message to back off.
But when some even meaner guys come after Jackson, he goes back to Holland and convinces him that they have to work together to find Amelia. And from that point, it's on. With little in the way of formal training, the two put clues together and dive into L.A. counterculture to find out what the hell is going on with Amelia.
After a little investigation, they come to realize that Amelia’s the daughter of one Judith Kuttner (Kim Bassinger), chief of the California Department of Justice. Amelia and her mother are at the center of a conspiracy that involves Detroit auto manufacturers and their unwillingness to abide by federal regulations for clean air. That plot twist throws the film off course and disrupts its fast and furious first hour with a few too many twists, but Gosling and Crowe have such good chemistry and so expertly balance drama and comedy, the conspiracy theory stuff comes off as a minor annoyance rather than a deal breaker.
Director Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
, Iron Man 3
) certainly captures the look and feel of L.A. of the ’70s. A brownish smog constantly envelopes the city and in one scene, Holland sits on the diving board of his empty pool, which he’s turned into an enormous ash tray. These nuances make the movie, a cross between Pulp Fiction
, Boogie Nights
and Lethal Weapon
, into something more than just another opposites-attract cop caper.