Just to be clear, the leading characters in this violent
action-comedy are anything but nice. That’s the level of humor in The Nice Guys, the latest endeavor from
Shane Black, whose Lethal Weapon
helped make him the hottest screenwriter in Hollywood thirty years ago. This
movie is more on the level of Black’s directorial debut, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, an overblown L.A. action yarn with a smartass
sense of humor.
What makes this movie tolerable and even enjoyable at times
is the rapport between Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, as a pair of low-rent
private detectives who get more than they bargained for while tracing the
murder of a porn actress named Misty Mountains. It seems that Misty’s personal
and professional ties involve powerful people who don’t want anyone examining
their very dirty laundry.
Frankly, neither do I. The
Nice Guys is watchable enough, with a nonstop flow of wisecracks and a
reasonable evocation of Los Angeles in 1977. (The period setting also relieves
Black of having to deal with such modern-day distractions as cell phones and
texting.) But it goes on too long for such a trivial story and doesn’t add up
to much. It’s hard to care about the mystery angle at all, let alone its
Still, it’s fun to watch Crowe and Gosling, who seem
cheerfully relaxed in their roles, and newcomer Angourie Rice, who plays
Gosling’s precocious 13-year-old daughter. And I can’t completely dismiss a
movie that evokes the memory of Lou Costello. But these fleeting pleasures
don’t constitute a satisfying experience. Moviegoers who are desperate for
escapism may find it good enough. I didn’t.