Do we go to movies like The Other Guys, Rush Hour, and Lethal Weapon for the mystery?
No, we go to them for the buddy-cop dynamic. So it amazes me that The Nice Guys tries so hard to weave a twisty tale when all we want to do is sit and watch Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe bicker back and forth. Yet films like these spend so much time focusing on the mystery that they often forget that audiences just don’t care about who killed who; we care about the characters.
Shane Black returns to his Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (and Lethal Weapon) roots with The Nice Guys, a buddy-detective comedy that pairs up Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe with varying degrees of success.
On paper, a Gosling and Crowe team-up may sound mismatched; Crowe’s gruff baritone tough-guy with Gosling’s suave charm might not seem like it would work out so well. Turn Gosling into a hapless alcoholic and keep Crowe as the same character he usually plays, and we may have stumbled upon comedy gold.
As the alcoholic father and private investigator who always manages to fuck things up—yet he is often the luckiest schmuck on the planet—Gosling owns the role (and most of the movie.) Always with a drink in hand—or one not too far away—Gosling provides much of the comedy in the lengthy romp. His drunken antics are hysterical, leaving me to want far more than what is given.
Crowe, on the other hand, is completely solid, though his character doesn’t feel all too different from role’s past. Struggling with his own self-worth and confidence gives him more weight, but these ideas never get explored to their fullest due to the obnoxious focus on the winding tale.
After the death of a famous porn star, circumstance throws the two private investigators into the mess of things as they try to track down a girl named Amelia, which ultimately unravels a much larger mystery. Backstabbing, political corruption, and hippy protests all converge in a story that feels like it was written with no end in sight.
It really feels like they took a lot out of The Other Guys’ playbook: two mismatched detectives trying to solve a little mystery that by the end becomes something much larger, yet it also grows increasingly confusing. In both movies there are points where you just have to stop caring about the story and let the actors do their thing because it’s the only thing that really matters: not some convoluted plot that takes time away from the real point of the movie…you know, the “buddy” part.
Nevertheless, the movie is both funny and fun to watch. Not likely to produce much howling laughter, The Nice Guys is deceptively amusing from start to finish along with a few standout moments and some excellent one-liners. A killer soundtrack also breathes life into the film that spares no expense in crafting a meticulously detailed reimagining of 1970s L.A.
The Nice Guys is more or less just another buddy-cop movie in a string that makes puts in far too much effort in its storytelling while leaving oodles of comedic material untouched as the plot takes centerstage rather than its characters. Nevertheless, Gosling steals the show, giving one of his funniest performances to date; if only the writers realized this, then we could have gotten a lot more out of this other than a paint-by-numbers mystery with exceptional performances.