Starring: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Margaret Qualley
Director: Shane Black
Jackson Healy (Crowe) is a pair of fists for hire, working the everyday streets of LA delivering physical warnings for a pocketful of dollar bills. Holland March (Gosling) is a private investigator with a defective moral compass who takes jobs to find missing husbands whose wives have forgotten are dead. When March is asked to find missing girl Amelia Kuttner (Qualley), Healy pays him a visit to warn him off. Soon after Healy himself is visited by an armed pair of hoodlums to gather knowledge of the missing woman so decides to team up with March to determine what is going on. They soon discover the disappearance is linked to the recent murder of high profile porn actress Misty Mountains and realise that the case is much more complex and prominent than they first thought. With the unwanted assistance of March’s tenacious daughter Holly (Rice) they set off to solve the mystery.
The Nice Guys relies entirely on its capacity to amuse and when the humour succeeds it’s genuinely enjoyable. The storyline itself is so dippy and ultimately overreaching however that during the frequent periods when the comedy wanes the sensation of a plodding episode of Columbo emerges. It is difficult to maintain constant wit throughout a two-hour feature and without a solid foundation underneath the whole movie risks subsiding.
Black revels in the man-made browns and yellows of the seventies and is a joy to experience, yet there is a troublesome impression of deja-vu throughout. Every single 1970s detective film and TV series seems to exist somewhere within the mien of all core aspects of the movie so it struggles to find a distinctive identity.
Crowe’s snowballing waistline and hostile demeanour continues to project him towards an irrefutable John Goodman doppelganger and it’s paradoxically tough to take his comedy seriously. Gosling surprisingly fits more naturally into the comic role but the script gives him too many repetitive jokes which soon become boringly predictable. Physical comedy is a black art and both Crowe and Gosling struggle at times to pull off the slapstick elements giving a sense of professional embarrassment rather than comic genius. Although both actors do an acceptable job, a continual nagging feeling is present that a different pair of front men could have made this a much sharper affair.
The days of million dollar Hollywood pay cheques for scriptwriters are long gone, and Shane Black is perhaps witnessing the dwindling remains of his Lethal Weapon bounty by now so needed to hit big here. He has possibly done just enough. The Nice Guys will most likely do well, with its easy to watch, average comedy appeal and various moments and quotes which will be repeated in the sixth forms for a number of months (‘Marriage is buying a house for someone you hate’, etc). Perhaps shaving thirty minutes of running time would have given it more pace and defrag’d the comedy hard drive. All in all though, a mostly enjoyable, if flawed, way to spend a Monday evening.
6 / 10