The Nice Guys

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Half way through this movie, during a party at a porn producer’s house, I leaned into my girlfriend and said, “This movie wants to be ‘Boogie Nights’ and ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’.” I was surprised this morning when reading the Union-Tribune, critic Anders Wright informed us that writer/director Shane Black is the one who gave us Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer). It’s a shame that a funny noir picture like that, tried to be replicated, and had so many jokes fall flat.

The movie starts with a boy stealing his father’s porn magazine from under the bed. As he’s looking at the centerfold of “Misty Mountains” a fancy sports car comes crashing through his house. It’s being driven by Ms. Mountains, who has been murdered. The boy slowly walks over, sees her exposed chest and bloody face…and slowly takes off his pajama top and covers her. I kept wondering why his parents didn’t run down stairs. I also wondered why underneath his PJs, he wore a wife-beater T-shirt. I also thought of the better scene in Animal House, when a kid is thumbing through a Playboy, and a woman flies through his window due to the havoc on the parade below. As she lands on his bed, he looks up and says, “Thank you, God!”

Unfortunately, throughout this movie, I just kept thinking of other scenes in other movies and how much better they were done before.

In one of the final scenes, as a film canister is flying all over the place and everyone is after it (while guns are being fired all around), you can name about 25 other movies that have done that. In between all that, we get a few clever scenes. There’s decent chemistry from Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe, who seemed to have gained a lot of weight (just as Val Kilmer did when we saw him in Kiss Kiss). Not sure if that was for the character, or the dude just likes beer and food.

Normally, I wouldn’t mention an actor’s weight, but everyone does it for actresses. Also, I just wasn’t sure if they were trying to subtly tell us something about his character, who is basically a hired thug that goes around punching people.

Gosling plays a private eye that recently lost his wife, and his house. He’s got a funny relationship with his precocious daughter Holly (Angourie Rice), which adds some humor to things.

This is the type of movie that Tarantino would love. We get all those ‘70s pop culture references, and movie marquees that show movie titles, or comedians playing at The Comedy Store that are now famous. We get a soundtrack of kitschy tunes (although they should’ve refrained from The Pina Colada song, as that’s from 1979 and became a hit in 1980, and this takes place in 1977). A lot of that ‘70s stuff will be lost on the younger audience. Hell, I’m 46 and I didn’t get the running joke about a character from The Waltons until Anders Wright explained it to me in the lobby.

At least this was better than the last ‘70s era, private eye movie I saw (the horribly disappointing Inherent Vice)

Another problem the movie has is that at times it’s hard to follow. My girlfriend asked me at one point, “Why are they delivering that suitcase with $100,000?”

I wasn’t quite sure, but what I was sure of…the suitcase wouldn’t have money in it (and when we see its contents fly everywhere, we think about the brilliant scenes in The Big Lebowski).

Later in the movie when the conspiracy is revealed and we find out why everyone is trying to stop the release of this porno flick…none of it really stand up to scrutiny.

Maybe I was so disappointed because the trailers for this movie had me in stitches. It felt like I was watching Abbott and Costello in a Scorsese film, based on an Elmore Leonard book. That’s the movie I wanted.

That doesn’t mean there weren’t a number of funny scenes. In one, Gossling’s character mistakes what a “eunuch” is, and keeps saying “Munich.”

Shane Black gave us a great blend of comedy and drama and buddy cops, in one of his earliest scripts — Lethal Weapon. He probably made a fortune writing/directing Iron Man 3. You expect more from somebody like that, but audiences are going to love this. They certainly did at the screening. I can only give it 2 ½ stars out of 5, and I’m being generous.