The Nice Guys review: not so nice at all
Sometimes a movie seems like it's destined to be good even before you've watched it. It's the coming together of a plot, a setting, some canny casting and, most obviously, actual performances. The Nice Guys seemed to be exactly this sort of movie. In fact just the trailer had us sold. Funny detective duo gimmick - check. Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe and Matt Boman - check. Zany porn-related mystery - check.
The stage was well and truly set for a fun, even if slightly adult, action-comedy that was easy on the mind and heavy on the humour. What could possibly go wrong? Quite a bit.
From the off Ryan Gosling's character, detective Holland March, just doesn't hit home. Gosling is an actor who wowed us when he did Drive and is generally quite bankable, not to mention consistent. Comedy though, is not his strong suit. What's worse, his character is actually meant to be the more likable one. He's a single, doting father. He's the less violent of the detective duo and he's given far more punchlines to play with. But none of it works.
Despite being set up to succeed, Gosling comes across as irritating rather than the lovable but flawed detective he's meant to essay. His daughter in the movie, actress Angourie Rice, seems initially to be just a bit-part character, but thankfully has a more substantial role, because her existence is the only thing that keeps Gosling's character likable.
Russell Crowe, on the other hand, despite being cast as the more roguish of the two, turns in a solid performance. While he isn't able to salvage too much chemistry with Gosling, Crowe manages to bring far more depth to his character than Gosling does. He even enjoys better on-screen chemistry with Gosling's on-screen daughter. While Gosling flounders in his attempt to ham it up for some slapstick laughs, Crowe knows just when and how much to dial the humour up.
None of the other characters get enough screen-time to gain any love from the audience. And, in the rare instances that they do, they end up being either thoroughly dislikable or criminally under-utilised. Matt Boman falls in the latter category.
As the villain of the piece, he's set up grandly enough, but in the end his character is so two-dimensional he'd disappear if he turned sideways.
The plot itself - with elements of the porn industry, 70's Americana, murder, mystery and some hippie stuff thrown in for good measure - has a lot of scope. Sadly, the movie doesn't build on it.
The storyline is clumsy and clunky. In an attempt to throw in as much as possible, every unfolding scene seems rushed while never really reaching its full potential. Where there is room for character development and suspense, what we get instead is a cheap laugh or a plot device so glaringly obvious you almost sigh when it pops up again later in the film.
In fact, the most redeeming feature of the movie is probably its soundtrack, which features music from KISS, The Bee Gees and Earth Wind & Fire.
Overall, it's a movie you might enjoy if you like slapstick but don't care too highly for delivery or scripting. If you're bored, love the '70s and its music and are in the mood for an action-comedy, this is probably better than your only other option this week - Michael Bay's latest iteration of the TMNT franchise. If you're not too sure whether you want to watch a movie this week though, the quality of your life would not dip if you gave this one a miss.