At moments, it feels like The Nice Guys is only inches away from greatness. However, in the end, The Nice Guys only comes off as, well, nice.
Shane Black, the writer turned writer-director has made an entire career off of buddy action-comedies. From Lethal Weapon, to The Last Boy Scout to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang his filmography seems to consist of this type of film. He’s very good at creating charismatic relationships between characters. Perhaps this is why Iron Man 3 was so bad (wait please come back!!!). Even without seeing most of his filmography, The Nice Guys seems like a very “Shane Black” movie.
The Nice Guys is neo-noir in a nutshell. There are private eye investigators. There is pornography. There is an evil corporation. The basic storyline matters less the feel of the movie. Not to say that the storyline isn’t interesting, it’s just not particularly relevant. Once the plotline reaches the minimum required twists and turns, it all becomes about the atmosphere and the characters.
Ryan Gosling is probably one of the funniest dramatic actors out there. After a career of playing exclusively cool, reserved and driven (ha…) characters, it seems like he itching to just go crazy. Maybe that’s why he won’t stop screaming. Seriously, he’s gone from doing The Place Beyond the Pines to doing SNL. And while what he was doing before wasn’t bad, he is really funny. Gosling has the whole comedy timing thing nailed, and he’ll hopefully keep getting offered roles that work toward his strengths.
Gosling and Russell Crowe are perfect together. Due mostly to his physical appearance, Crowe handles the whole straight man routine, which allows Gosling to go absolutely insane. Both actors are far too recognizable for any character name to stick, but they are both completely committed to their roles, allowing them to disappear quite effectively. Not to mention that they have a lot of chemistry together.
What keeps The Nice Guys from reaching its full potential is a simple lack of heart. The movie has a heartbeat that keeps everything motivated, but that pulse feels like it’s a little too manipulated. The thing moving the film along (aside from the plot…) doesn’t quite seem genuine, and thus the movie doesn’t seem genuine. It’s a lot of fun throughout, but the heartfelt moments aren’t nearly as heartfelt as the movie wants them to be.
While the story isn’t the most unpredictable thing in the world, it is still a wonderful journey to be a part of. There are not enough layers to make things confusing, but just enough diversion to keep things interesting. The characters are rich and likable, while completely serving their purpose. Finally, there is a perfect blend of action and comedy throughout. The movie is intense, but it’s also funny. It is just a shame that the film seems a little too tamed. Not that anything that happens is bland (the film very much earns its ‘R’ rating), but there is something missing that keeps the movie from being truly memorable.