Review

‘The Nice Guys’ a Middling Detective Tale

The_Nice_Guys_posterI could watch Ryan Gosling’s high-pitched shriek from this on a 12 hour loop every day until I die.

“The Nice Guys” is the third directorial credit for writer Shane Black, who previously wrote and directed “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” and “Iron Man 3.” His latest effort places Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling in 1977 Los Angeles amid a conspiracy involving a missing girl and the mysterious porn industry.

I love Shane Black’s writing. I adore the grossly underappreciated/underseen “Kiss Kiss,” and I really liked “Iron Man 3” despite its twist. I also love Los Angeles (ask anyone who knows me, read any other review I’ve written about LA-set movies or read my Twitter bio and that will be quickly be made clear). So those two factors placed “The Nice Guys” near the top of my 2016 watchlist; which is why I walked out with my heart broken.

OK, so “broken” is a bit of an extreme statement, but this movie is certainly a letdown given the talent involved. Everyone gives it their all, and all the pieces should be there for a fun detective film, but they just don’t add up to a success.

Gosling has shown he can balance comedy and drama (he stole “Crazy, Stupid, Love.”) and he is the star of the show here. He plays a pouty, drunk private investigator that cries, complains and scams extra money out of his clients but still manages to get the job done. Russell Crowe tries his hand at comedy and it is amusing to see, and this was a nice film to get his feet wet with. His natural large frame and brute physique make him the muscle of the duo (neither of them are really the brain) and although he doesn’t have too many actual laugh-out-loud lines, he gives a fun performance.

Matt Bomer and Angourie Rice both turn in solid work as well as the film’s villain and Gosling’s daughter, respectively.

Normally the script is the strongest part of a Shane Black film, but here I think it is the weak link; it just isn’t up-to-par with his normal work (you have no idea how much I just died inside writing that sentence). If you don’t know Black’s style and “Iron Man 3” is the only film of his you’ve seen (his first-ever script was “Lethal Weapon” and he also wrote “The Last Boy Scout”), normally his films have characters who know they’re in a movie and the dialogue pops and is full of quips (I call him a more tongue-in-cheek Aaron Sorkin). Here, there just aren’t too many of the quotable lines or laugh out loud responses that we’ve been spoiled by in year’s past.

Not only is the film not as funny as Black’s previous efforts, but the first half just isn’t that interesting. There is a lot going on and almost none of it is explained (intentionally). Once the second half of the film rolls around and the characters begin to unravel the mystery, things do get a bit more interesting but by then it was too little, too late. Also, and this isn’t the movie’s fault but it’s worth noting, most every big laugh is shown in the trailers and those aforementioned trailers have played before every film the last five months. So I all too often knew what was coming.

About 20 minutes into “The Nice Guys” when I wasn’t as engaged as I felt I should be, I thought to myself, “oh no, this isn’t going to be that good, is it?” And lo and behold, it wasn’t. Which kills me.  Because in the age of sequels, capes and talking dogs, this is a (relatively) original film, or at least the type of film Hollywood doesn’t make anymore. Starring two likable leads and written/directed by one of the more underrated guys in the industry, this is the type of project that you want to like and support, but I just couldn’t force myself to.

Because like I said, all the ingredients are there for a fun summer movie: charismatic actors, a fun screenwriter and a neon-lit, groovy setting. But I guess it’s like having pizza, chocolate and soda; just because they’re great on their own doesn’t mean they’re going to create a good end product when mixed together.

Critics Rating: 5/10

the-nice-guys
Variety
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