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Monday, May 23, 2016

The Nice Guys 2016 * * Stars

The Nice GuysDirector: Shane Black
Year: 2016
Rated R
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe, Angourie Rice

Shane Black scripted two of my favorite buddy cop films in 1987's Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout. With The Nice Guys (my latest review), he directs and sadly his direction is much better than his writing.

"Guys" playing like an art house version of "Boy Scout", is a mixture of clunky dialogue and bone-crunching payoffs. Whereas that 1991 film had a fair amount of nasty wit, The Nice Guys seems to be all look and no feel. Billed as an action comedy, "Guys" is patchy kitsch and contains two actors (Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling) that completely strain for comedic timing. Sure its setting of 1977 Los Angeles is light film noir and variably flawless. However, that's about all the movie has going for it. These "nice guys" don't finish last but they come real close.

Shot beautifully in a darkened haze, "Guys" unfortunately is sloppily edited, contains songs that came out after 1977 ("Boogie Wonderland", "September", "Boogie Oogie Oogie", etc.), and unjustly features 70's relic Gil Gerard in the opening credits (was he in the movie cause I just couldn't tell). Basically this picture is not the best way to get your Me Decade fix. Boogie Nights, a film that also dealt in the pornographic industry and City of Angels backdrops, is truly a better option.

Now the story of "Guys" which is based on true events that happened to a real-life Marine in the late 90's, has little reason to occur almost 40 years ago. With the exception of skin flick interludes and visions of old school movie projectors, it could have taken place in any time period.

The main character is Private Detective Holland March (played by Ryan Gosling). Gosling's March smokes and drinks so heavily, he teeters close to having liver and/or lung cancer some twenty years down the line (I'm not kidding). March gets paid to find people and now he's on the lookout for a missing girl named Amelia Kuntner (played by Margaret Qualley). Somehow someway, Amelia is connected to a dead porn actress named Misty Mountains (great name). On hand to help March in his quest, is Enforcer Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe). Whereas March's job is to find missing persons, Healy's job is to beat people up. Matt Bomer (Magic Mike) plays a murderous villain named John Boy and Kim Basinger makes a cameo as Amelia's two-faced mother. With heighten sound effects editing, "Guys" is loud, violent, and the in-jokes are few and far between. I had to rely on the random chuckles of the audience to see what was funny or not.

In conclusion, I remember seeing the trailer for The Nice Guys in February. I automatically thought that the casting of Crowe and Gosling was interesting and sort of out of the box. After seeing the finished project, I realize it doesn't really work. At times it felt like they were in separate movies altogether. Crowe looks a little bloated while Gosling tries too hard to be funny. In truth, Ryan Gosling stumbles around "Guys" and the whole time I was kind of hoping he would turn to his forte which is the dark side (remember Ryan in Drive?). Some much for that. The one bright acting spot in "Guys": Australian actress Angourie Rice (she plays March's daughter). She has that "it factor". I mean I'm not saying she's Meryl Streep but the girl could be a big movie star someday. Rice is like a charismatic, Reese Witherspoon mini me. She's all coiled up with energy and some serious, glowing enchantment.

Bottom line: The Nice Guys with its locations looking more like sumptuous movie sets than actual, recreations of L.A.'s Hollywoodland, litters its script with the name "Amelia" and the words "find Amelia". It does this so many times you could make a drinking game out of the entire, two-hour running time. As for the procreated bearing, well Philippe Rousselot's cinematography for "Guys" is the high point until it evaporates due to the flick's manic choppiness. During the final act of The Nice Guys, Gosling's March quips, "I think I'm invincible... I don't think I can die". This movie, well I think its staying power isn't invincible and I think its box office take will die a little. Soon. Rating: 2 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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