Russell Baillie writes about movies for the Herald

Movie review: Nice Guys

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Advance buzz on this pairing of Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as mismatched 70s LA private eyes had been pretty good. Advance buzz isn't everything, it would seem.

This also marks the return of director-writer Shane Black, who first made his name as screenwriter on the action-comedy likes of the Lethal Weapon movies, The Last Boy Scout and The Last Action Hero but saved up his directing debut until 2005's Robert Downey jr-starring noir-comedy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

That last one was an acquired taste in a too-clever-for-its-own-good kind of way.

Nice Guys doesn't suffer an excess cleverness problem. Just an excess of goofery in its shaggy dog of a detective story against a period setting of smog-bound 1977 Los Angeles.

It might have allusions to everything from Chinatown to the likes of Elmore Leonard, but its contrivances defeat any story coherence.

So we're left watching Crowe as podgy standover guy Jackson Healy and Gosling as drunk private detective and solo dad Holland March buddy up - after an improbable introduction - to find a missing porn actress with high-up connections.

Ryan Gosling after a hard day of "sozzled slapstick" on Nice Guys (Supplied).
Ryan Gosling after a hard day of "sozzled slapstick" on Nice Guys (Supplied).

Sure the leads look to be having some big dumb fun, especially Gosling who is all over the shop.

He's veering between sozzled slapstick and doting single dad, even throwing in a bit of Lou Costello (or possibly Stan Laurel of Laurel and Hardy) to prove he's studied the comedy greats or something.

Crowe is amusingly seedy, his nasty streak softened by resembling a crotchety big blue couch in that leather jacket of his, and he seems to be enjoying himself so much he defaults to his Australian accent in a scene or two.

It feels like the pair have been wound up and let go, which delivers a few amusing moments in between some old fashioned pulp violence and shootouts.

Russell Crowe blasts his way through the 70s decor of Nice Guys (Supplied)
Russell Crowe blasts his way through the 70s decor of Nice Guys (Supplied)

But it's a movie of confused tone, uneven performances (especially from Kim Basinger in a pivotal role) and feeble story.

Stylistically, it feels like it could be happening in the same neighbourhood - or at least the same period font selection or soundtrack- as Paul Thomas Anderson's Inherent Vice or Boogie Nights.

But it more resembles a ropy Tarantino prequel spin-off of 80s television's Jake and The Fatman.

Hopefully that advance buzz hasn't inspired thoughts of a sequel.

No more Nice Guys, please mister.

Verdict: Rusty and Ryan go all out and lose the plot


Cast: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling

Director: Shane Black

Rating: Violence, nudity, sex scenes and offensive language

Running time: 116 mins

- NZ Herald

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