I can’t quite place where my slight dissatisfaction towards this movie stems from. For one thing it’s not by all means a bad movie. It’s actually considerably fun movie to watch, it’s delightfully boozy, Shane Black absolutely nails the 70s vibe perfectly and it has just the right amount of sexy in it without turning the entire movie completely slutty, if you get my drift. It’s also this cute little period detective picture with a nice mix of comedy and action in it, which happens to push all the right buttons with me. It comes very close to being the new swinging 70s version of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, but somehow I end up feeling like the Nice Guys just seems to be missing that elusive je-ne-sais-quoi factor that made KKBB so darn great and infinitely rewatchable. Now that I think about it, this is exactly the same feeling I get whenever I watch the Last Boyscout, which happens to also be written by Shane Black. I kinda dig that movie, it’s got a pretty good cast and story, but every time I end up feeling like I don’t enjoy it as much as I think I should.
Like any truly great detective story, we start off with a a dead body, in this case the naked body of an adult film actress Misty Mountains (such a great old school porn name) being found that ends up dragging our two heroes, the accident prone private dick Ryan Gosling and brawn over brains character played by Russell Crowe, into the middle of giant clusterfuck of a conspiracy where the pair soon find themselves way over their heads, as one does, and it is only with their combined wits, unexpected meddling/help of Gosling’s spunky adolescent daughter and plenty of luck that they eventually, after much fumbling in the dark, succeed in exposing the nefarious, smog fueled plot to the world, only for it in true noir spirit to amount to a mere symbolic Pyrrhic victory
But like they say, it’s ultimately the journey that matters, not the ending results itself, and there’s certainly plenty of amusement along the way to the finish line in this movie. You get to see Crowe kicking ass and taking names, Gosling being a human crash test doll when he in his drunken haze accidentally jumps off a balcony and rolls down a steep Hollywood hill, and of course let’s not forget the hilarious hallucination scene concerning a human-sized bee.
As far as the main players go, Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe have pretty okay chemistry with one another as the bumbling pair of detectives that more or less stumble their way through the entire story. Of the two, Gosling often steals the entire show with his fantastic comedic little mishaps and general goofballing, like when early in he movie he’s about to break into a bar and he accidentally cuts himself so badly with the shattered glass that he needs to be hospitalized due to the severity of the bleeding. This naturally leaves Crowe to be the straight man, though he still gets some decent dry laughs as the slightly less bright one of the two. One aspect I particularly liked about Crowe’s character was the relationship with him and Gosling’s teenage daughter, where her youthful positivity slowly rubs into his more mature, darker worldview and he becomes less cynical. It’s not particularly big deal in the grand scheme of things, but it’s a rather nice little character beat for Crowe when in the climax he doesn’t just kill one of the bad guys for practicality’s sake and just knocks him out instead.
Even though I liked both of their performances, it has to be said that they do sort of lack that special, Lethal Weapon Riggs and Murtaugh type partnership, that lightning in a bottle sensation that all the truly great, iconic odd couple/buddy detective combinations have. Gosling and his slightly alcoholic, accident prone goofy single dad persona is a good opposite to Crowe’s more hardened, but not the sharpest tool in the box vigilante for hire character, but there is something fundamentally essential missing in their interaction that would have made their partnership truly great. It lacks a spark that make their dialog and interaction truly electric.
To sum it up, the Nice Guys is not a bad movie, in fact I liked it overall, but it just doesn’t seem to click with me right on some subconscious level to be fully enjoyable. I have fun with individual scenes, but as a whole it just doesn’t come together as much as I would like it to. I suppose that makes it true what they say, nice guys do finish last. And no, I won’t apologize for that awful pun.