“The Nice Guys”
Directed by Shane Black
I gotta say, this film is a real mess. Which isn’t to say it’s not funny…in spots. It is. Occasionally laugh out loud funny. But when it tries to be and isn’t…it REALLY isn’t. Alas, I have no idea what deirector Shane Black is going for. Combination “Paper Moon”, “Uptown Saturday Night” and “Abbott & Costello”, this film suffers from thinking it’s a LOT more clever than it actually is. Which is a shame, because the opening scene is utterly brilliant. It just never lives up to it.
The structure of the film is fine, but even here, it’s confused. It follows a slapstick caper-plot, but there’s really no caper. It tries to incorporate archetypal characters, yet regularly zigs when it should have zagged. The dialogue (and the 66% of the jokes that land) , occasionally makes up for that not insignificant drawback. When all is said and done, it feels more like the introduction of a franchise, rather than a stand-alone movie.
But massive props to the production team. Production designer, Richard Bridgland, art director, David Utley and set decorator, Danielle Berman, have a created a late seventies Los Angeles that looks and feels more authentic than we’ve seen in a film…including “Boogie Nights”.
Russell Crowe and newcomer, child actress, Angourie Rice, are both committed and believable in their roles. Crowe, as you would expect, inhabits his character with years of backstory written on his face. And Rice, as Gosling’s daughter, is terrific, even if her character seems to act in a manner that belongs in a totally different film. Gosling, however, is lightweight and brutally unfunny. His backstory is actually written IN TO the script, and he still doesn’t give his character any depth. He spends most of the time literally pretending to be Lou Costello. Mr. Gosling…I’ve watched Lou Costello. And you, sir, are no Lou Costello. Which is too bad. There is enough in the script to have made a much better relationship between the two. Kim Basinger is ageless (or has a REALLY good surgeon). And the less said about Margaret Qualley’s Amelia, the better. Several other good actors have their abilities wasted by underwritten supporting roles, like Yaya DaCosta, Keith David and Matt Bomer. Beau Knapp chews up some delicious scenery, though.
David Buckley and Joel Ottman’s score is unremarkable, but unobtrusive. However, the songs, like the clothes and the props, are pitch perfect for the era…chosen not just for their timeliness, but for their effect on the scene.
I wish I could say I loved this flick. I didn’t. But neither did I hate it. I just have no idea what it was trying to be. And as result, I left the theater extremely unsatisfied.
On the plus side, the theater I saw it in only charged $7!