'The Nice Guys' has garish violence and few laughs

The 1970s-set 'Nice' stars Russell Crowe as an enforcer and Ryan Gosling as a private detective. The two team up to try to find a missing girl.

Daniel McFadden/Warner Bros. Entertainment/AP
'The Nice Guys' stars Russell Crowe (l.) and Ryan Gosling (r.).

Just what we need – another potential buddy-movie franchise. For “The Nice Guys,” somebody had the bright idea to pair Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, two actors best known for playing seething loners. It’s not unusual for seriouso actors to change course and attempt comedy – Robert De Niro did it, though I mostly wish he hadn’t – but in this case, Crowe and Gosling aren’t especially funny either singly or together. This may not be their fault altogether, since writer-director Shane Black (with credits on the “Lethal Weapon" films and “Iron Man 3”) isn’t the sort of filmmaker who can be accused of having a light touch.

Crowe plays Jackson Healy, a hired enforcer, and Gosling is Holland March, a heavy-drinking private detective in 1970s L.A. who gets embroiled in the search for a missing girl who was mixed up in the pornographic film world. A string of murders unveils a larger conspiracy. 

The violence is cartoonishly garish and the yuks are few. Crowe, looking (deliberately I presume) flabby and somnolent, is more dead than deadpan, and Gosling, who appears at times to be doing a Lou Costello impression, is, to put it mildly, not in his element. 

There’s also March’s 13-year daughter, Holly (Angourie Rice), who is hauled into the mayhem. She’s meant to be wiser and more caustic than all these rampaging adults. Black inserts her, giddily, into all this porno pandemonium, a ploy I found more objectionable than amusing. Grade: C (Rated R for violence, sexuality, nudity, language and brief drug use.)

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