On the case

A fun throwback crime drama/comedy set in 1970s L.A.

Starring Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling. Directed by Shane Black. Cinemark 14, Feather River Cinemas and Paradise Cinema 7. Rated R.
Rated 3.0

The Nice Guys is an energetically sloppy, comical and entertaining throwback to the crime movies, buddy pictures and action flicks of the 1970s. It works hard at being a guilty pleasure—emphasis on the latter—but takes care to leave a few morsels of sour taste lingering in the vicinity of its sweeter moments.

Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling play a couple of oddball private eyes in late-’70s L.A. Holland March (Gosling) tries to look smooth and ultra-professional, but is much given to elaborate pratfalls, delusional semantic evasions and epic drunkenness. Jack Healy (Crowe) is a beefy, old-school type who mixes strong-arm stuff with crafty gumshoe ministrations.

Unbeknownst to each other, both are hired to find a young woman named Amelia (Margaret Qualley) who has been involved with SoCal porno filmmakers and who has disappeared after the death of a porn star named Misty Mountains. Although their early efforts tend to cancel each other out, they join forces, and eventually solve at least some of the story’s mysteries, even though the solutions are often a matter of what one or the other falls into or what falls, literally, on them.

March is also a single father, and his whip-smart teenage daughter Holly (Angourie Rice) is a pivotal character in the story’s fleeting glimpses of human virtue. She is a conscience figure for both of the private eyes, as she moderates her father’s self-serving relativism on the one hand and Healy’s brutal fatalism on the other. And at times, she seems the most gifted sleuth in the bunch.

Kim Basinger appears as a government official who also has some peculiar connections to the porno mysteries.

Matt Bomer is on hand as a psychotic-looking hitman wearing a business suit. Lois Smith plays the dead actress’ grandmother, and Beau Knapp plays a lunatic hitman who earns his nickname of “Blueface” in a way you’ve got to see in order to appreciate.