"The Nice Guys" should have been --- could have been --- a lot better. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling have terrific chemistry and play off one another beautifully. But --- as is always the case --- the weak screenplay by director Shane Black and co-writer Anthony Bagarozzi ruins any potential "The Nice Guys" proffered.
Los Angeles in 1977 is a smog-covered mess. A porn star is killed when her revved up sports car goes careening off the windy roads up in the Hollywood Hills. It seems like everyone connected to Amelia (Margaret Qualley), the missing daughter of the head of the California Department of Justice, Judith Kuttner (Kim Basinger), is dying. But that doesn't stop private eye Holland March (Gosling) and enforcer Jackson Healy (Crowe) from taking the case.
March is a heavy-drinking widower with a whip-smart teenaged daughter, Holly (Angourie Rice), who is determined to keep him from getting killed. She's not too thrilled with Healy, either, who breaks March's arm on their first meeting. But Holly resigns herself to the fact that these two halfwits will be working together, and manages to tag along to watch over them.
The biggest problem with "The Nice Guys" is that it can't decide what it wants to be when it grows up --- a comedy or a violent thriller? There are numerous funny scenes --- many of which are shown in the trailer. And there are innumerable sequences of extreme violence. One such scene has John-Boy (Matt Bomer), a nasty assassin who has literally destroyed March's rented home with a machine gun, coming upon his desired prey, Amelia. The result of this encounter is shocking not only for its violent outcome, but in the matter-of-fact way it is written.
As I mentioned, Crowe and Gosling are effective, and at times, hilarious together, especially when Gosling is squealing like a stuck pig. I really enjoyed Rice, a young Australian actress, as Holly. David thinks she's annoying in this role, but what does he know? I still can't believe he liked "Mother's Day".
"The Nice Guys" is barely entertaining enough. Had Black and Bagarozzi spent a little more time trying to perfect their screenplay and make a decision on what they were really trying to accomplish, this film should have been an outright blast. It's certainly not a must on the big screen, but on a rainy night it will pass the time.
Opinion: Wait for DVD
Given the unusual pairing of Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, in a comedy, no less, "The Nice Guys" is mostly disappointing. Laced with brutal incidents of violence, particularly by Jackson Healy (Crowe), there are long periods in the film when noting much happens, other than a few wisecracks, mostly from Holland March (Gosling).
Gosling's stunt double gets a lot of work in this film, beginning with March as Healy's punching boy for part of the film, including a stomach-churning break of March's arm. And as nasty as Healy is in his role of a hands-on private investigator, a thug called John-Boy, played by the normally placid Matt Bomer, upstages him, even shooting and killing a young girl. I just don't find such excessive, gratuitous violence very entertaining.
The funniest scene in the movie is revealed in the trailer when the boys dump a fresh corpse over a fence, only to have it land on a wedding party. The second time around merely elicits a chuckle.
Diminutive Australian actress Angourie Rice, 15, plays March's precocious daughter Holly, who manages to implicate herself into almost every dangerous situation with improbable results. In one scene, she successfully escapes from the clutches of a gun-wielding female killer. I didn't find her act appealing, or cute, or anything but annoying.
Co-writer/director Shane Black doesn't come close to matching his previous successes, most notably the original "Lethal Weapon". Crowe and Gosling do exhibit an on-screen chemistry, but I would like to see them together in a better film, preferably a straight drama or a better-written comedy..
Opinion: Mild Wait for DVD