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Byron Shire
November 29, 2022

Cinema Review: The Nice Guys

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In Hollywood, when a screenplay is not quite managing to deliver the scintillating goods that the producers hoped for, there is always a venerable Plan B to fall back on – just bung in an extended sequence of shooting and mayhem. Everything is fine to begin with here, as a punchy, Shaft-like theme ushers us back to the mid-seventies, when blokes wore sideburns and flares (thank Gawd the costume designer spared a very pudgy Russell Crowe the indignity of such strides), smoking was still cool (there’s barely a scene in which Ryan Gosling is not sucking on a ciggie), and petrol-guzzling cars were nearly the length of a cricket pitch. Layered over the retro atmos is an almost impenetrable plot after the style of Raymond Chandler (it’s LA noir, after all), in which the thrust of what is happening is too veiled for too long. A girl who has appeared in a porno flick has vanished. She’s the daughter of the head of the Justice Department (Kim Basinger). Everybody is looking for her – including Jackson and Marsh, a standover man and private investigator.
Crowe and Gosling are good together, but in buddy movies it’s best if the two leads are more different than they are here (as harmonious opposites, think of Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson in recent pairings). Unfortunately, these guys are too similar – Jackson is the phlegmatic tough guy and Marsh the drunken weirdo who has a gorgeous daughter in tow (yet another single father), and they are both a bit slow off the mark. The lines they’re given aren’t that great, either, but they are delivered well, albeit in a manner of studied, deadpan casualness. A totally unexpected homicide is enough to drag you out of your torpor and get interested again, but it’s too little, too late.
It ends with the strong suggestion that there will be a sequel and if you enjoy klutzes in crime investigation, that’s a welcome prospect, but a leaner script and tighter direction would be welcome for the next outing.

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