Weekender

Palling around with ‘The Nice Guys’ this weekend

Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling star in “The Nice Guys,” which comes out in theaters on Friday.
Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling star in “The Nice Guys,” which comes out in theaters on Friday. Tribune News Service

Matchmaking isn’t an easy gig.

Ask anyone who has ever tried to play Cupid and they’ll tell you that for every successful love connection, there are a dozen others that fizzle faster than off-brand cola at a cheap restaurant on the world’s worst date.

There are boxes that you can check of course — similar interests, tastes in music or movies, even a matching sense of humor.

But when it comes right down to it, what looks good on paper doesn’t always work in real life — or as it turns out, on film.

“The Nice Guys” is an action-comedy that shuttles Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe back to 1970s Los Angeles as a private detective and muscle-for-hire, respectively.

They quite literally took their cues from co-writer/director Shane Black, who in his heyday as a Hollywood hotshot screenwriter penned the script for “Lethal Weapon” and later jumped behind the camera for “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” and “Iron Man 3.”

More to the point — the man knows a thing or two about chemistry.

I’m not saying that Shane Black is the guy you want setting you up on your next blind date — that would be crazy.

No, Shane Black is the guy you want to be partnered with on a mission to take down a deadly international arms dealer while enjoying a vaguely antagonistic relationship that eventually blossoms into one of mutual respect, even — dare I say it — love, while trading wisecracks in between rounds of ammo.

That would be ideal.

To say that Black invented or even perfected the buddy movie would be giving him too much credit, but he does understand the romantic undertones of the genre, the “His Girl Friday” of it all, better than most.

There are few pleasures in this world that are greater than listening to Val Kilmer, who plays another private detective in “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang,” berate Robert Downey Jr., his meticulously mismatched partner in crime, for tossing a gun into the river that his mother gave him as “a special present.”

For all of the other trappings of the scene — which, by the way, includes a set of assassins and a dead girl in a trunk — this is really the first act of a romantic comedy, writ large.

After all, in a good buddy comedy, nobody cares if the relationship is ever consummated. The flirting is half the fun.

Frank Ready: 814-231-4620, @fjready

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