The Nice Guys? They Finish Last

nice-guys-posterI 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.

One of the film's many hilarious beatings.

One of the film’s many hilarious beatings.

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!

Throw the dumb girl through the window! Yay!

Throw the dumb girl through the window! Yay!

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!

Ooh, I hope she gets shot and dies. That'd be funny.

Ooh, I hope she gets shot and dies. That’d be funny.

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.

2 responses on “The Nice Guys? They Finish Last

  1. You bastard. I was planning on waking up and writing this review. Now I have nothing to write about except Mr. Robot turning into a shitty Fight Club reboot.

    I actually thought Crowe was the funny one. At least he was doing something unexpected — trying to smile. Gosling was like a clown playing “I stole your nose” while a boatful of migrants sank into the Aegean. By the time he was literally (<- word used correctly) imitating Lou Costello after stumbling into a corpse, I was ready to kick his teeth into his other teeth so that he got teeth stuck in his teeth.

    I'm no huge fan of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang but compared to this, that's the epitome of wry humor. This film began with a scene from Animal House rewritten by Nietzsche and got worse from there. There was not a soul or idea to care about in The Nice Guys. Any time the film approached something resembling humor or style it almost immediately ruined it.

    Now that I think of it, the film that this reminded me of more than anything else is Tom Hanks' and Dan Aykroyd's Dragnet and even I'm embarrassed to have to write that sentence.

    • Sorry, sucker. If only you’d waited a little longer, you’d have known not to watch it. I’d watch Dragnet again in a hearbeat over this monstrosity.

      The rest of the movie was so bad I forgot about the opening scene. What planet was that supposed to have happened on?

Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man.