Review: The Nice Guys, B-
Rated R, 116 minutes
The familiar yet charming new buddy comedy "The Nice Guys" from "Iron Man 3" director Shane Black is a serviceable, smile-inducing effort in the genre, though it's not as arresting as it thinks it is. In 1977 Los Angeles, a down-on-his-luck private eye (Ryan Gosling) works with a hired enforcer (Oscar-winner Russell Crowe) to investigate the disappearance of a girl and the death of a porn star. Directed and co-written by Black, the appealing, laid-back yet overlong crime caper "The Nice Guys" that in spite of its title, is not about genuinely nice guys, but guys who appear to be nice to solve their crime. Its subversiveness is part of its charm, yet also part of why it's so well-worn, occasionally flat and slightly unconvincing. "The Nice Guys" exudes the 1970s well in clothes, sets and cars, but is otherwise a mixed bag of comedy and crime that takes too long to solve its crime and drags in places where it shouldn't, its middle act in particular is stretched way too thin. The Gosling-Crowe pairing isn't a bad one: Gosling is the funny one here, with Crowe his strong-arm straight guy; there's some understated charm about them, but this seems to be channeling Black's own "Lethal Weapon" and it hardly feels new, with its Los Angeles setting and peppered with all sorts of irascible, squirrely characters (where's Joe Pesci when you need him?), including an aptly named porn star Misty Mountains and the bad guy, John Boy (Matt Bomer, nearly unrecognizable in a bowl haircut). The real one to watch here is young Australian actress Angourie Rice as Gosling's smart, sidekick daughter who is a big help to the men in their crime-solving efforts; her breakout turn here (she steals every scene she's in) is one of "The Nice Guys" most memorable aspects - and leave it to a girl to steal a buddy comedy - but in this case she's a breath of fresh air. Some of the bits here work: the energetic climax is well-staged, but others fall flat - an early party scene in particular goes on too, and it meanders too much. Plodding and pleasant enough, "The Nice Guys" is still filled with some crowd-pleasing, fun moments and Gosling is game in a very physical part, but it still can't detract that it's really just a "Lethal Weapon" retread set in the 1970's.