I dare you to make a worse movie than The Nice Guys. I don’t think it can be done. Because there’s a line to badness, and the moment you cross it, you enter the realm of so bad it’s good. Or to be more accurate, so bad it’s entertaining. The worst movies aren’t the worst movies, because the worst movies are amazing. You can’t stop watching them. They’re gripping, they’re fascinating, they’re hilarious. In short, they’re Battlefield Earth.
The Nicy Guys has been shoved up right against the line. Any worse and it’d be a million times better. No, The Nice Guys is just straight up unwatchably boring and awful.
For one thing, it’s supposed to be a comedy, and yet half of the wacky starring duo is Russell Crowe. You know, cheery funny-man Russell Crowe? From the laff-riot Noah? And Man of Steel? The guy who looks like he’d punch you in your lousy laughing face if you so much as cracked half a smile in his general direction?
Here’s the thing about Russell Crowe in The Nice Guys: he’s exactly as funny as the time your deep fryer blew up, and you went to the hospital with horrible burns all over your body, and the skin grafts did nothing but hurt, excrutiatingly, and you died, screaming and alone.
Ryan Gosling plays his partner, and the thing about Gosling is that he’s really quite adorable. He’s even kinda funny. I think there were two or three solid chuckles in the movie, and he’s responsible for all of them. Imagine if, in your generic buddy rent-a-cop movie, you paired a genuinely funny and likeable actor with Gosling. You might have a fun movie.
Now imagine pairing an angry, irritating, unfunny lout with Gosling, but playing him like he’s equally charming and delightful. That’s The Nice Guys.
And you know what would be even more hilarious? If Gosling had a 13 year old daughter who gets in on all of the killing. And almost gets whacked herself! Ha ha!
Hey, I’m no prude. I’m all for children-in-jeopardy played for laffs. But in The Nice Guys? Nary a yuk. It’s the worst crime of them all. A comedy without the funny. Without the funny, all of the bystanders hit by stray bullets, young girls tossed through plate glass windows, runaway teens being shot in the face, etc. and so on, just don’t seem as wacky and entertaining as you’d expect.
I kept wishing someone with even just a smidgen more innate comedy talent was in here in place of Crowe. Someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Or lung cancer.
Shane Black co-wrote (w/ Anthony Bagarozzi) and directed this lugubrious turd. It’s got as much subtle panache as Iron Man 3, and its shoot-em-up action sequences are just as exciting. I.e. they are not at all exciting. I was glad to see Keith David listed in the credits, but all he does is get the crap beaten out of him by a very angry and violent Russell Crowe, whose character, Jackson Healy, is an angry, violent man who people hire to beat other people up. He’s a gas!
Scene after scene features Healy and Holland March (Gosling’s sad-sack private dick) trading not even remotely witty repartee while the bullets fly and the plot drives itself over a cliff. These two guys are wincingly unfunny together, but the movie doesn’t know that. Nothing that happens isn’t interrupted by tone-deaf banter leading nowhere.
The plot is supposed to be a kind of noirish investigation of seedy goings on in L.A. in the ’70s surrounding the auto industry’s suppression of catalytic converters. It’s like Black was was inspired by Chinatown‘s use of L.A. water rights, but imagined it as a hyper-violent comedy without a plot. “All I need is banter,” one imagines him thinking. One has plenty of time to imagine things while watching The Nice Guys.
The Nice Guys tanked when it opened earlier this year, but, bizarrely, is sitting pretty with a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. I think critics have decided Shane Black is a revered autuer they’re supposed to say nice things about lest they lose their hipster cred. I am not privy to why this is so.
If you’re going to not watch a movie any time soon, I can’t recommend The Nice Guys highly enough.