The Nice Guys Are Alright

If ever there was an ode to the 1970s, The Nice Guys might very well be it: disco, porn, cocaine, hard rock, marijuana, a burgeoning environmental movement, porn (again), the auto industry and really awful (or really good, depending on your tastes) fashion.

It is L.A. in 1977, and a beautiful porn star named Misty Mountains is dead, but one relative says she’s seen her alive since her death and hires a private eye to find her after the police say no. Ryan Gosling is the borderline-alcoholic detective named Holland March that she hires. As he starts turning up leads, he discovers Amelia. It is clear she is somehow connected to Misty, but as he follows Amelia’s trail, she hires a thug to completely dissuade March and a yet-unknown man from following her. The thug is Russell Crowe as Jackson Healy.

Healy gives March a proper working over. However, within a day, Healy uncovers that March is a right guy and that the mystery man might be real trouble, and his client Amelia might be in danger while also nearly impossible for him to track down and warn.

Next thing you know, Healy is hiring March to find Amelia and the two begin uncovering a web of intrigue, big money, murder and more.

here’s a lot of set up, but it is worth it.

Gosling and Crowe are a good team, even if they aren’t buddies for most of the show. They have good chemistry, and they make the off-beat mystery work. In many ways this is a lot like the off-beat mystery vibe of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, starring Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer in 2005.

By no means the revolutionary reworking of a mystery narrative a la Pulp Fiction, nor is it the cutting cynicism and humor of an Elmore Leonard story such as Get Shorty, it flies below the radar missing a lot of the attention it deserves as a humorous mystery with fast-enough pacing to pass the time enjoyably. Even if it is the 1970s through a smog-colored, soft-focus lens, it is nice to revisit the period and these characters set in it.

The supporting cast is surprisingly strong and important to the film. March has a plucky 13-year-old daughter who is a bit of a Nancy Drew, played by Angourie Rice. A little too street smart and savvy for a typical 13-year-old, Rice helps keep the guys on track while uncovering some clues of her own. Kim Basinger is vital to a plot twist we don’t want to give away. It is good to see her back on the big screen. Speaking of Val Kilmer earlier, his son Jack has a tiny part in the film.

The soundtrack is outta sight.

Also like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, 12 years before it, I think The Nice Guys is going to be one of those films that might grow a bit of a following over time.

—Nathaniel Cerf dresses as if he were from central casting in the 1930s. The ’70s are an abomination to his sense of fashion and style. You can reach him at