The Nice Guys Reviews: Should We Buddy Up to Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe?

Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe in The Nice Guys
Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe in The Nice Guys

The Nice Guys Reviews: Buddy Action Comedy with Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe

“The Nice Guys,” starring Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, brought critics back in time — not to the 1970s Los Angeles setting of this buddy action comedy, but to the 1980s and early 90s when director Shane Black dominated this genre with his “Lethal Weapon” screenplays.

The question to be pondered was whether “The Nice Guys” lifted the best from the past or if it felt stale and outdated. Most critics tended to like the film, though the 92 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes looks better than it is. Even the positive reviews were tempered with disclaimers.

Take this one:

“Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling are the funniest duo of the year so far in ‘The Nice Guys'”Richard Roeper, the Chicago Sun-Times

Roeper qualified his statement by noting the competition was pretty weak: Kevin Hart and Ice Cut in “Ride Along 2,” Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson in “Zoolander 2” and Zac Efron and Robert De Niro in “Dirty Grandpa,” one of the most panned films of all time.

The Nice Guys Reviews Point to Chemistry Between Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe

Still, most critics were charmed by Crowe’s violent enforcer Jackson Healy and Gosling’s down-on-his PI Holland March, their frenemy-bromance working much like Danny Glover’s Roger Murtagh and Mel Gibson’s Martin Riggs did in the “Lethal Weapon” franchise.

“The movie is a throwback in many ways but also proves a dynamic duo can still be just as effective in modern cinema as a superhero ensemble cast. For ‘The Nice Guys,’ it takes two to make it outta sight”Brian Truitt, USA Today

“From my point of view it’s not a great or especially fine movie, but a good near-miss. … While Healy and March don’t feel like they’re about to top his franchise-worthy team of Murtaugh and Riggs, Black gives his stars entertaining silly business to perform.”Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune

Which brought the obvious comparisons between “The Nice Guys,” written and directed by Black, and “The Lethal Weapons,” penned by Black.

“Like Black’s earlier screenwriting efforts, ‘Lethal Weapon 1 and 2,’ in ‘The Nice Guys’ the momentum comes not simply by way of screeching cars and ricocheting gunplay (although there’s plenty of that), but from the banter and bickering between the two leads”Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer

Some critics, however, said that no matter how good the acting or the story, the genre may have passed many by.

“If it were, say, the summer of 1988, ‘The Nice Guys’ would be a big box-office hit. … But in a summer of robots and warlocks and ninja turtles, I’m not sure how this kind of old-school mismatched-partners buddy-cop film—even one with a 1970s setting and a wry tone to remind you it’s currently 2016—is going to play”Will Leitch, The New Republic

For a few reviewers, these problems doomed “The Nice Guys.”

“Even nostalgic nonsense requires more than attitude and energy, which is all that Mr. Black has to offer. And despite all its restless detective work, ‘The Nice Guys’ is unable to track down a soul or a reason for being”A.O. Scott, New York Times