THE NICE GUYS (2016, Shane Black)
Shane Black is one of those artists you just always picture as young, no matter what. He made his stamp on Hollywood 30 years ago, in his 20s, and throughout the decades you still picture Black as that rebellious rapscallion cracking jokes in PREDATOR and spitting out juvenile scripts like THE LAST BOY SCOUT. But time marches on, and Black is 54 now. Over the hill and mellowed out, his films are starting to sag just a bit. The pace here is a little slacking, the wit a little lacking.
Ryan Gosling, on the other hand, is an actor in his prime. Having kicked off his career with a blistering performance in THE BELIEVER, Gosling has gotten even better: now he may be the second early contender (along with Colin Farrell) for Best Actor on many year-end lists. Even if his sense of humor is anachronistic for a 1970s-set crime comedy, his physical acumen and razor-sharp timing are exhilarating to watch.
Crowe wisely plays it straighter, so Black leans on their chemistry to get through some of the weaker plot points. Supporting roles come up short save for March’s daughter. Amelia is little more than a MacGuffin with a heartbeat. Basinger gasps at references to L.A. CONFIDENTIAL when Crowe is in the room with her, while YaYa DaCosta seemingly has no idea what kind of movie she’s in — did she wander off the set of SCOOBY DOO? There’s some nice bleakness to the story twists, and plenty of individual moments sizzle. But it’s hard not to think the Black of KISS KISS BANG BANG would have given the entire movie the zip it needed.