The Nice Guys

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THE NICE GUYS —a 2016 buddy flick (action-comedy variety, but then, I guess they all are) set during 1977.  Like the decade depicted, the movie is lopsided, a cocky but unsure blend of attitudes–page the 70s & 80s: amusing, naughty, seedy, ugly, violent, overdressed, gauche.*

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Two luck-hungry private detectives join forces as their cases merge against the glittery backdrop of L.A.’s porn boom of the late 70s. One-liners vie with mayhem. Directed by Shane Black, co-writing with Anthony Bagarozzi, like most of Black’s jokey action fodder (the good Lethal Weapon and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, the tiresome Last Action Hero, The Long Kiss Goodnight and The Last Boy Scout) it’s needlessly profane (ease back on the swearing dial, or at least find another word that starts with f), and casually brutal (overdose of blows, gunshots, incidental victims, and the have-we-seen-this? trope of guys outrunning endless streams of machine gun fire).

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There are quite a few funny sight gags and throwaway lines, and Ryan Gosling sparks with his end. Co-buddy Russell Crowe delivers professionally, but he’s looking tired, gone from buff to beefy (watch it, Maximus or you’ll end up looking like Broderick Crawford). Nice to see Keith David again, now 60, still imposing. Dragging smart 16-year old Angourie Rice through this skirts suspect territory, but she’d debuted with the bracing These Final Hours three years earlier, so maybe she’s in a hurry to grow up. Tasking this film for taste is wasted effort.

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Running a good twenty minutes overlong at 116 minutes, the first three-quarters moves apace, but absurdity trumps in the last act. Period details are smile-worthy, and it has a good soundtrack.  Mostly well-reviewed, it failed big at the box-office, earning only $$57,300,000 against a cost of $50,000,000.

With Kim Basinger, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Yaya Da Costa, Beau Knapp and Lois Smith. Hopefully, we will see more of one Chloe Hurst–the eyes did it.

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* While fitfully enjoyable as forgettable popcorn trash, thanks to some jokes and a brimming bevy of subject-matter-suited, clothes-optional bimbos, if the Ryan & Russell roughhousing is supposed to ring a bell of “remember those cop-buddy flicks of the 70s?”, the selective recall is coked out. A casual look at releases from 1974 through 1979 reveals plenty of action and comedy but as to buddy-pix, barely a dent—Silver Streak, Smokey And The Bandit, Thunderbolt And Lightfoot–with no cops or private eyes in the vehicles. Most of those flicks turned up in the following decade. The slick but lazy script–which took fourteen years to get made–assumes an audience of 2016 would just jumble every historical period from the 1920s to 2000 into one big whirl of guns, boobs and cars, with wave-of-hand-generalized “oldies” on the soundtrack. Shrewd, shallow, stupid and savvy all in one screenplay. Come back, Shane….

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