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Fueled by Shane Black’s fascination with buddy cop flicks, brimming with charm, charisma, and hilarious self-obsession, and populated by an impeccably-casted array of characters, The Nice Guys delivers in every conceivable way. What’s more, the delightful pairing of Russel Crowe and Ryan Gosling couldn’t have arrived at a better time. It’s an odd coupling, to be sure, but Crowe’s grim and brooding delivery, juxtaposed with Gosling’s affable presence, actually adds new depth and dimension to a film that easily could’ve been an unmitigated disaster. Instead, the movie treats its viewers to a sharply written, lovingly devised yarn with all the makings of a modern classic.

Like every successful film of its ilk, The Nice Guys knows the terrain upon which it treads and enjoys itself more than it probably should. It doesn’t break any new ground; in fact, it gleefully indulges in the tropes and trip-ups that characterize its genre. Some may find this approach silly and played out, but upon closer inspection, it’s obvious that this tongue-in-cheek adherence to the oft-followed rules proves itself a boon rather than a bane.

Crowe and Gosling move from scene to scene, clue to clue, quip to quip with an infectious, almost viral enthusiasm that’s as irresistible as it is welcome. The gleam in Gosling’s eyes only becomes brighter as the film barrels toward its outrageous climax, and by the time the closing shot cuts to black, he’s basically beaming with unbridled glee. Crowe’s zeal may not be made evident in his delivery, but the fact that he’s not grumbling and grousing his way through his performance says more than he ever could. He’s enjoying it the Russell Crowe way, and by God, we’d be assholes to try to take that away from him.

It’s a film that perfectly captures the zeitgeist of the ’70s while still carrying enough cultural heft to infuse relevance and timeliness into a story that could have felt dated and drab had it not been for the inclusion of several key elements. With a plot so steeped in ’70s customs, it’s surprising that the film manages to become as timeless as it is, but it does just that with aplomb. At its heart, though, The Nice Guys wants to impart wisdom on parenting, love, and the delicate relationships we have with ourselves, all while slamming viewers with plenty of sex-centric jokes, hilarious digs at Gosling’s expense, and some truly spectacular action sequences.

The Nice Guys features a brand of comedy that never once feels like a centerpiece around which everything else revolves. This is good, because it means the film prioritizes the story and its characters before piling on the humor. Films that can confidently and competently balance humor with character development usually receive top marks from me, mainly because most films can’t and don’t balance them well at all. That, and there’s so much love, so much care behind Black’s execution that it’s almost impossible not to appreciate all the subtle winks and nods he so carefully places throughout the film.

The biggest takeaway? “Don’t say there are whores and stuff, honey. Just say there are whores here.”