Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Nice Guys (2016)

Film: The Nice Guys (2016)
Stars: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Kim Basinger
Director: Shane Black
Oscar History: No nominations
Snap Judgment Ranking: 2/5 stars

Can we all just be thankful to have Ryan Gosling back at the movies?  That brief period where his fame had hit peak mode and suddenly everyone was all over the "Hey Girl" train and he was threatening to quit, and largely did until the press around him died down?  It was devastating for fans of his, particularly after he'd given two Oscar worthy performances in a row in Blue Valentine and Drive.  Thankfully he's back, and seems to be more at home in the world of comedy with both The Big Short last year and this year's The Nice Guys, where he's taking on the buddy cop routine with Russell Crowe, who has been equally as elusive in recent years, though he didn't drop off the face of the earth when we missed him most so the longing isn't quite there.  The film has done all right at the Box Office (though it's nowhere near recouping its losses yet), and so I wanted to show my support for the Gos and check it out.

(Spoilers Ahead) The film, from Shane Black (the man behind the okay Iron Man 3), is not entirely what I expected from the trailers.  The previews for the film had insinuated that I'd be in for something of a laugh riot, with a constant tete-a-tete between both Crowe and Gosling, but the actual film itself is not short on drama, and intersperses the comedy only in jaunts.  The story follows two detectives of sorts (Gosling's March is a detective, Crowe's Healy is an enforcer who meets Gosling while beating him up for a client).  The movie follows them as they work through the case, which manages to cover all of the 1970's cliches of pornography, sit-ins, and of course ridiculously over-the-top fashion choices (though god bless the costume designer who put Gosling into knit-tight leisure suits), and we see a number of different random, beautiful character actors show up as various bad guys, including Yaya DaCosta, Matt Bomer, and in an LA Confidential reunion, Kim Basinger (was I the only person who spent that first scene praying she'd say "you're the first man in five years who didn't tell me I looked like Veronica Lake inside of a minute,"...man that's a great movie).

Unfortunately The Nice Guys is not a great movie, and doesn't have the dialogue to be able to back up what is a similar amount of plot twists, oddly enough, to LA Confidential.  The film is aided quite frequently by the superb comic timing of Gosling, and the fact that somehow Crowe manages to remember what subtlety is (sadly Basinger's only in two scenes and they're both severely underwritten, so I can't say thumbs up or down in that department), but the plot itself is rather forced and cumbersome.  The actual mystery is easily solved in about two minutes, which hurts as not knowing what's about to happen is integral to the actual meandering the film takes in getting to the solution, and the movie's ending is weirdly disconnected from the film.  We end with March and Healy solving the crime, but everyone getting off and us talking about how Detroit is the future of America, which is bizarre because Detroit would be doomed in the decades that followed and we'd still have deep issues with pollution in Los Angeles and around the country anyway-it's bizarre trying to figure out if they're ragging on the auto industry or condemning it.

This is a larger problem though, as the film can't decide if it's a comedy or not, and doesn't really find the grace that you need to be a dramedy.  We have to watch, for example, March deal with his alcoholism and abjectly bad parenting skills, but there's no real indication that this changes and feels like a large hanging chad in the movie, as is the random morality-driven center of Holly (Rice as March's daughter), who is somehow both Harriet the Spy and the most annoying black-and-white worldview character we've seen onscreen in eons.  She's frequently seen with a gun in her face, but trying to do the most good for the world, and yet we get little indication as to why this is happening-if they were waiting for the sequel to give us this information, considering the box office they'll be waiting a long time.

Overall, really this movie is only worth seeing if you're a big fan of Gosling's (which I am, so I'm glad i caught it).  What were your thoughts on the picture?  Do you think we'll ever see another chance-to-shine from Kim Basinger, or will she always be paying for that divorce?  Anyone wish that Gosling would, now that he's back, pick a movie that was as good as what he was giving out?  And why can't we get another noir film as good as LA Confidential?  Share your thoughts in the comments!

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