By Chris Nashawaty
Updated May 17, 2016 at 10:37 PM EDT
Credit: Daniel McFadden
  • Movie

Shane Black didn’t invent the Hollywood buddy action flick, but as a hot-hand screenwriter back in the ’80s and ’90s he certainly elevated it to hilarious new meta heights with Lethal Weapon and The Long Kiss Goodnight. Since then Black has reemerged as a versatile director equally at home with quippy, rat-a-tat neo-noirs (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) and quippy superhero juggernauts (Iron Man 3). His gift is turning clichéd macho patter into winking, smart-aleck poetry, but in his latest film, the ’70s L.A. detective caper The Nice Guys, there’s some zip missing from his fastball. It’s funny, but not as funny as it wants to be. Co-written with Anthony Bagarozzi, Black’s film pairs Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe as low-rent Tinseltown private eyes who spend as much time stringing along clients as they do sniffing for clues. These two slightly dim bulbs start as oil-and-water adversaries but join forces (along with the teen daughter of Gosling’s character nicely played by Angourie Rice) to crack the connected cases of a dead porn star and a missing girl who may or may not be caught up in a political conspiracy. Basically, it’s Inherent Vice without the highbrow aspirations, or The Big Lebowski with two Dudes. Gosling and Crowe have a surprisingly fizzy, ferret-and-bull chemistry, and the hedonistic Me Decade setting is groovy. Gosling wears a parade of leisure suits, while Crowe’s paunch tests his Hawaiian shirt’s buttons. But the one-liners and shoot-outs feel a bit threadbare, handed down from older, better Shane Black movies. B

The Nice Guys

  • Movie
  • R
  • 115 minutes
  • Shane Black