The Nice Guys benefit from the chemistry of its leads and slapstick anarchy but it’s weighed down by a convoluted derivative script.

In 1970s Los Angeles, down-on-his-luck private eye Holland March (Ryan Gosling) and hired enforcer Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) must work together to solve the case of a missing girl and the seemingly unrelated death of a porn star. During their investigation, they uncover a shocking conspiracy that reaches up to the highest circles of power.

The actors you’d least likely to expect in a buddy comedy combine their charisma to create a genre flick set in the 70’s.

Russel Crowe is not a comedian and Ryan Gosling runs to indie films to get away from rom coms, but they both have the needed chemistry to carry the movie. Crowe is the goon for hire but straight guy for the pair, while Gosling is the charming but unreliable PI even though he tries too hard sometimes for the goofball effect. Ingenue Angourie Rice – who reminds me of young Reese Witherspoon – is great as the designated sassy voice of reason for the two. The rest of the supporting cast is also fittingly casted including Kim Basinger in a minor role that may remind you of a classic and Matt Bomer who can instantly become a handsome villain when he uses his creepy eyes.

They’re all tangled in a plot where cynicism, comedic violence, and slapstick anarchy abound. The movie excels in turning remorseless hostility into funny moments with perfect timing. In one scene, our “private investigators” are about to step out of the elevator until they see a guy with his throat slit. After hearing a couple of grunts and shots around the corner, they see another falling from above through the glass window behind them.

Both have classic threads, March with psychedelic shirts and Healy with a blue leather jacket, in keeping with the fashion of the 70’s. While the movie doesn’t fully commit to the sleaze of its era, it does have detailed production design and costumes. Cinematography provides soft lighting that give the movie a certain night glow.

The leads – Crowe embracing his rotund frame  and Gosling evolving into a physical comedian – can only do so much for a movie weighed down by unconvincing material that is unable to sustain an attention grabbing opening sequence.

The duo is thrown into an implausible series of events string together by a contrived and confusing multi-player narrative. By the time Kim Basinger pops up, you already know how it’s going to end. The movie features all too familiar buddy cop shenanigans that if it weren’t for its two bankable leads, it would remain as a Cannes palate cleanser. Experienced movie goers would see Elmore Leonard, The Coen Brothers, and a bit of Inherent Vice.

Still, it can be said that when the movie stops cluttering the story with a cobbled up government conspiracy, it does benefit from the energy of its main characters.

The Nice Guys offers exactly what you need and nothing more. And for that, it’s a decent throwback albeit forgettable.

My Rating: 6/10

 

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