The Nice Guys (R) ★★½

The Nice Guys image
Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling star in ‘The Nice Guys’ Photo Credit: Daniel McFadden/Warner Bros Pictures

Ryan and Gosling and Russell Crowe make a fun pair, but it’s not all laughs.
The Nice Guys is one of those movies you’re either going to get, or you’re not. And I didn’t get it. It follows two seedy investigators—Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) and Holland March (Ryan Gosling)—as they try to track down a young girl named Amelia (The Leftovers’ Margaret Qualley) and figure out why everyone connected to a porn movie she starred in is being killed off.

Director Shane Black (Iron Man 3) was going for a ‘70s noir buddy-flick type of vibe, set in a smog-covered L.A, complete with gloriously groovy outfits worn by all. I’ll admit that the buddy-flick parts mostly worked; Crowe and Gosling make for a hilarious-at-times odd couple—who woulda thunk it? From March’s battle with a bathroom stall door to the pair’s ill-thought-out disposal of a corpse, there are some truly fun and memorable scenes that border on slapstick, and I suppose they’re the reason why The Nice Guys is being billed as a comedy. But if you go in thinking this film is all a bunch of light-hearted laughs, you will be in for a cruel surprise.

From March’s twelve-year-old daughter Holly (Angourie Rice) spewing out lines that Black and Anthony Bagarozzi seem to have written solely for shock value, to several grotesque scenes of head-bashing and bone-cracking, to countless inexplicable and pointless deaths by gunfire, the film was too extreme and thoughtless with its violence for my taste. My guess is that it was all part of Black’s nod to the genre he was attempting to honor, but it fell flat. Very few films can successfully straddle comedy and violence, and The Nice Guys would’ve been stronger had it focused more on its leading duo’s tomfoolery.

And don’t even get me started on the plot. Again, my suspicion is that Black and Bagarozzi constructed a convoluted story on purpose—a mystery that revolves around a porn film probably isn’t meant to be too serious. But the problem is that many parts of The Nice Guys are without a doubt somber and serious, so it’s like Black couldn’t decide what tone he was going for. An odd, wooden performance by Kim Basinger in what came off as a tacked-on-at-the-last-minute part of the plot just added to the confused vibe.
The Bottom-Line? Let’s be clear: The Nice Guys is not a comedy, despite what its trailers are telling you. But if you can get past its excessive violence, there’s still some fun to be had thanks to Crowe and Gosling’s unexpected chemistry.

Cast: Russell Crowe (Jackson Healy), Ryan Gosling (Holland March), Angourie Rice (Holly March), Matt Bomer (John Boy), Margaret Qualley (Amelia), Kim Basinger (Judith Kutner)
Credits: Directed by Shane Black; written by Shane Black and Anthony Bagarozzi

Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures

Run Time: 1 hour 56 minutes

Erika Olson © May 20, 2016