COMEDY; 1hr 56min
STARRING: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling
Nice work: Crowe (left) and Gosling
You gotta love a battler, especially when he's ersatz cool in 1977 Los Angeles. As bearish standover merchant Jackson Healy and doofus PI Holland March, Crowe and Gosling are a hit-and-miss dream team, unwillingly aligned in a hunt for an elusive girl (Margaret Qualley as Amelia). Their sidekick is Holland's whip-smart 13-year-old daughter, Holly (Angourie Rice), who is a whole lot more together and a whole lot less morally compromised than they are, although admittedly that's not too hard.
As directed and co-written by Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), the main attraction of the overall craziness is the yin-yang disparity of the two stars, who bounce off each other with bang on verbal acrobatics and rollicking, slapsticky action. They're an ingenious fit and the retro-cheese production design doesn't hurt any, either, setting an Elmore Leonard–friendly tone of sun-dappled sleaze. Yes, this is a shady world but it's never too dark for a laugh. The Nice Guys (which is what their new detective agency will be called, God help the American criminal classes) are so not the gumshoes you'd hire for a seamless delivery of services rendered. But for top value in a maze of tight spots? Hell, yes.