Do you enjoy two hours of Ryan Gosling screeching?
Shane Black has always been the king of buddy cop movies. After writing Lethal Weapon 1 & 2, writing and directing both Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3, Black has gotten the buddy cop genre down to a science. This resume, along with the amazing duo of Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe had all the makings of another great buddy cop film. Did Black succeed? Eh, sorta.
It’s 1977 Los Angeles, a porn star is dead and a girl is missing. And it’s up to private eye Holland March (Ryan Gosling) and enforcer Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) to get to the bottom of it. This investigation takes them to various sleazy corners of Los Angeles, as they begin to unravel a conspiracy much bigger than they initially thought. It’s classic noir structure, and this film felt like Black’s love letter to the genre. The Nice Guys felt like the type of film that doesn’t really get made anymore, and underneath all the buddy cop humor and usual Shane Black-isms lies a true to genre detective story.
By far the strongest aspect of the film is the chemistry between Gosling and Crowe. I honestly could watch an entire movie that solely consists of them shooting the shit. Fortunately, a great portion of The Nice Guys is dedicated to exactly that. The partnership between Holland and Jackson is one born of necessity, as their first interaction ends with Holland getting his arm broken. It’s this teeth-clenched teamwork that is at the core of the comedy, and what elevates the film as a whole.
I loved seeing these two actors play against type in comedic roles, Gosling especially. Gosling’s usual cold, quiet demeanor is completely stripped away in a favor a boisterous, eccentric detective personality with a penchant for high pitched screams. Crowe takes on more of a straight man role, which allows both actors to play off against one another in hugely entertaining ways.
Black has always loved subverting classic action movie tropes, and he continues to utilize this technique to full effect. He likes to play with audience expectations, which adds another element of humor to the film. Holland will try to punch out a window, only to get his arm cut open and pass out due to blood loss, or in the middle of a gunfight Holland will try passing a gun to Jackson only for the gun to fly out the window. It’s these little directorial flourishes that give the film a little extra flavor.
It’s just a shame that the rest of the film isn’t on the same level as its two leads. While the interactions between Gosling and Crowe were hilarious, a great deal of the other humor in the film fell flat, and the jokes that did land unfortunately were spoiled for me in the trailer, so the punchlines didn’t quite pack the punch that they should have.
The overall plot is serviceable, but nowhere near intriguing enough to be worth the price of admission alone, which is the film’s greatest failure. The story of the film is fairly straightforward and predictable, bar an interesting twist here or there, and it’s unfortunate that the comedic aspect of the film isn’t strong enough to make up for the narrative shortcomings.
I enjoyed my time with The Nice Guys, but I expected a lot more. The film failed to live up to its potential, but that doesn’t make it a bad movie. I got quite a few laughs out of it, but nothing much more than that. When it’s all said and done The Nice Guys is an entertaining yet forgettable experience.
And yes, to all you Shane Black aficionados out there, there is a Christmas reference.