The Nice Guys (2016)
The Nice Guys (2016)

Genre: Crime Comedy and Mystery Running Time: 1 hr. 56 min.

Release Date: May 20th, 2016 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Shane Black Actors: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Keith David, Beau Knapp, Murielle Telio, Kim Basinger, Jack Kilmer, Ty Simpkins, Cayla Brady, Lexi Johnson

 


 

B

ullets fly and bodies pile up when down-on-his-luck private investigator Holland March (Ryan Gosling) meets brutish mercenary Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe). March, hired to reexamine the death of adult film star Misty Mountains (Murielle Telio), partners with Healy when the two discover that flighty Amelia (Margaret Qualley) seems to be the key to the numerous murders of those involved with one of the actress’s movies. Tracking the young girl from decadent parties to clandestine meetings across 1970’s Los Angeles, the mismatched sleuths must battle gangsters, assassins, the law, and each other if they hope to stay alive and uncover the truth.

“The Nice Guys” takes the look and style of “Inherent Vice,” but it doesn’t capture the tone. This is a shame, because what it desperately needed was the right feel for this kind of buddy-cop picture – which is, namely, one with two comic relief protagonists surrounded by a wealth of serious situations. Gosling is the overly flamboyant funny man, providing much of the slapstick and panicky overreactions – even going so far as to emulate a popular routine from Abbott and Costello. And Crowe is the bigger, tougher, heavy, who is supposed to play it straight. But, somewhere in the middle, his character becomes equally as inept as his fussing, inebriated cohort, leading to more than one aggravating conundrum. As this duo accidentally collects clues, unearths a dead body, or stumbles into the right place (at the wrong time), it should be amusing, not agitating.

Like “The Big Lebowski,” there’s a distinct film noir atmosphere and a bevy of red herrings to make the murder mystery excessively unguessable. But, unlike that aforementioned parody, which purposely overdid the twists to make sure that the impromptu detectives were inconsequential to the case at hand, “The Nice Guys” looks to be doing it all in earnest. It isn’t trying to make a point with its circuitousness, and it’s hoping for genuine misdirection with the classic briefcase-full-of-money routine. Writer/director Shane Black believes he’s crafting an intelligent caper, merely laden with comedic interludes. But, in reality, he’s created a hopelessly overwrought, overlong, insignificant puzzlement, wherein the characters never behave like they’re in any real danger. They’re invincible cartoon versions of private eyes, failing to take anything seriously and always impervious to bullets. Writing in a young girl sidekick (Angourie Rice as March’s daughter Holly) is a smart move, as it infuses the movie with its only marginally deeper moments, but even she serves mostly to highlight just how unrealistically March and Healy behave. This goes doubly for the villains, who must continually delay shooting, stabbing, or apprehending the heroes in the most noticeable, inconvenient ways.

The very idea of combining bickering flatfoots with deadly assassins, adult film stars, and precocious children demonstrates the filmmakers’ interests in contrasting material. During the opening moments, many important opposites are established, from a small boy gazing at a naked woman to a calm evening interrupted by a careening car to the introductions of the leading men (one a callous enforcer, the other a cowardly deceiver). But the laughs that could have been derived from exceptional disparity are quickly replaced by wisecracks, slapstick, and cynical observations (Healy insists that “Marriage is buying a house for someone you hate,” while March has the phrase “You’ll never be happy” scrawled on his hand). The humor rarely flows naturally, instead arriving in the form of squabbling asides, designed specifically to be separate, segregated moments outside the plot, just for the main characters to exchange insults and solidify their lack of true detection skills (not unlike Black’s previous nod to pulpy noir, “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”). The whole movie essentially becomes an excuse for the comic duo (and trio when Holly partakes in the repartee) to joke about the ‘70s, petty crooks, the corruption of humanity in general, gumshoes, and pornography.

– The Massie Twins

  • 5/10