I really love Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and The Nice Guys is a worthy spiritual successor to that film. In fact, the two movies are a lot alike. We have one bumbler who lucks into getting things right now and then but just as often is unlucky in getting it very wrong (Robert Downey Jr./Ryan Gosling), and we have the guy who is smarter and better at his job (Val Kilmer/Russell Crowe). The pair fall into the same pit of trouble and must work together to solve a mystery to get out of it. By the end of the movie, the two main characters have formed a bond and create a semi-official institution that will no doubt lead to further adventures.
Well, I guess Shane Black sticks to what he's good at anyway. Buddy comedies with a crime twist. Both films feature party scenes, car crashes, dead women . . . The Nice Guys also has a precocious 13-year-old that didn't do much for me, but whatever. I still liked the movie. I'm not really into the 70s culture, but it works here, I guess? Definitely suits the tone, and maybe Black preferred not to have cell phones and all that kind of technology in this story (which was the reason I set The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller during the 60s as well). Then again, Black sets the story around the catalytic converter (I kid you not) so the 70s was kind of the only option for that plot point.
Here's the story, more or less: Ryan Gosling plays Holland March, a boozy P.I. hired to find, well, at first a dead porn actress whose aunt insists is still alive, but by extension a girl named Amelia. Russell Crowe plays Jackson Healy who is hired by Amelia to get rid of the guys trying to find her. Thing is, March isn't the only one trying to find Amelia. Some very bad men are, too. The story goes from there and takes March and Healy through the world of porn films and up to the head of the Justice Department (Kim Basinger), looping in Detroit auto companies along the way. Along for the ride is March's daughter Holly (Angourie Rice). Matt Bomer does a nice turn as an über evil assassin.
While a lot of fun, The Nice Guys felt a little too long, which is funny because it's not even two full hours. The end just seemed to drag on, though it did the job of tying things up neatly. Thing is, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a movie I can watch over and over again (also Lethal Weapon), but I'm not sure yet whether The Nice Guys fills that requirement. It might simply be too soon to tell. I can't say I'd never watch it again, but I get the sense that if I were in the mood for this kind of movie, I'd go for KKBB or LW 1 or 2 first.