The Nice Guys, film review: ‘Ryan Gosling makes this dark comedy’

Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe in THE NICE GUYS. Picture: Daniel McFadden

Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe in THE NICE GUYS. Picture: Daniel McFadden - Credit: Archant

Shane Black has had his ups and downs in Hollywood – going from a million dollar screenwriter (Lethal Weapon) in the ‘80s to being largely ignored in the ‘90s.

His first film as a director (private-eye drama Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) went largely unseen; his second, Iron Man 3, is the 10th biggest grossing film in history.

In The Nice Guys, the man who wrote the ‘80s Hollywood action template gets to retro-fit it to a ‘70s setting and re-make his flop directorial debut.

Gosling and Crowe are mis-matched detectives stomping around LA in 1977, searching for a missing girl who may be connected to a giant conspiracy surrounding a porn movie.

It shows off the best and worst of Black’s talents.

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There is, of course, the slick, wisecracking dialogue, but also an ability to subvert movie conventions, such as the opening scene which shoots a car crash from the point of view of the innocent bystander’s house that gets smashed into.

It’s slick, funny and breezily entertaining, but that can’t disguise its reptilian coldness.

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After the opening scene everybody who isn’t a lead actor is fair game.

I think I counted three times when innocent bystanders are gunned down and it is played for laughs.

A recurring theme is Gosling worrying about the world his daughter (Rice) is growing up in, but Black’s films make a point of robbing children of their innocence.

At least this time the little girl doesn’t get kidnapped, but she tags along to gun fights and porno industry pool parties while one of her little friends gets thrown through a window by the psychotic baddy (Bomer).

The stars make it; or rather Gosling does. He does a great turn as a cowardly, drunk braggart.

I’m not sure Crowe, playing a variation on his goon from LA Confidential, really works.

He’s the nicer, nobler of the two, and that often makes him seem like a bit of a stick in the mud.

While Gosling is clowning around, he is trying to preserve his film star dignity.

He’s also let himself go quite a bit, and the way he drapes himself in a jacket which may not button up comfortably suggests that he’s a little bit in denial about it, or that he’s hoping to pass it off as resting muscle.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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