Ryan Gosling (left) and Russell Crowe get in each other’s way while searching for a missing girl in “The Nice Guys.”

Ryan Gosling (left) and Russell Crowe get in each other’s way while searching for a missing girl in “The Nice Guys.”

Gosling, Crowe, slapstick scenes carry ‘Nice Guys’

The 2005 film “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” didn’t connect with a big audience, which is a shame. That action-comedy was extremely clever, poking fun at itself while handing hilarious roles to Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer.

Writer-director Shane Black seems to have learned his lesson, because his new film, “The New Guys,” dials down the cleverness. It’s still got jokes, and a lot of it is geared around a similar kind of buddy-antagonism (Black’s also the guy who wrote the “Lethal Weapon” pictures). But everything here is easier to take than “Kiss Kiss.”

That disappointment noted, the movie is still agreeably nutso. “The New Guys” is fast, violent, and doesn’t feel like it came out of the summer-movie food processor.

The convoluted story line begins with a missing-persons case, causing the collision of private investigator Holland March (Ryan Gosling) and enforcer-for-hire Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe). They operate in smog-choked Los Angeles, late 1970s.

Healy will basically do whatever it takes to collect his fee, while March is strictly a second-rate private eye. In their first meeting, Healy breaks March’s arm.

You don’t think he’s actually going to break the arm, but Shane Black made his reputation by pushing scenes a little farther than you expect. That’s what gives this movie its sometimes giddy edge.

March has a daughter (Angourie Rice), a detail that threatens to sentimentalize the movie but actually makes it funnier. The supporting cast is full of quirkiness: Matt Bomer and Beau Knapp as especially depraved bad guys, Kim Basinger as a high-strung Department of Justice official, and Margaret Qualley (Andie MacDowell’s daughter) as the missing girl.

But the film is really about the boys, and their rapport. Crowe, looking very chubby here, is guilty of overplaying some of the comedy, but he’s still fun to watch. Gosling must have been born with good comic instincts, because his delivery here — vocal and physical — is right on. You have to have a lack of vanity to engage in this kind of slapstick, and these two have that.

Black’s best scenes happen in the margins of the plot — an anecdote about seeing Richard Nixon at the moment of death, a weird encounter with a foul-mouthed little kid at the site of a burned house, a dream sequence that involves an enormous killer bee.

When the movie gets loose, it cooks. Add the great faux-70s music by John Ottman and David Buckley and the vintage clothes, and “The Nice Guys” becomes a party movie.

It’s a party where somebody’s going to get hurt — Shane Black likes using violence for shock value. But if you can handle that, the movie’s a welcome dose of nonsuperhero action.

“The Nice Guys” 3 stars

Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe are late-1970s investigators in L.A., looking for a missing girl but mostly riffing on a series of slapstick situations. Director Shane Black uses violence for shock value, but the movie’s at its best when exploring the absurd stuff that happens on the margins of the plot.

Rating: R, for violence, language, nudity

Showing: Alderwood Mall, Cinebarre, Everett, Monroe, Marysville, Pacific Place, Sundance Cinemas, Thornton Place, Woodinville, Cascade Mall

Talk to us

More in Life

Jeff Daniels
Actor Jeff Daniels also knows his way around the blues guitar

The Edmonds Center for the Arts will present a streaming concert by Daniels on Jan. 15.

Artists Amber and Alex Vincini sit by examples of their artwork outside their studio on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2020 in Everett, Washington.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
CARES Act grant helps artists be creative — and pay the rent

The money allows Everett’s Schack Art Center to hire artists and art educators.

When harvesting an Asian pear, the best method is to taste. Asian pears will ripen on the tree. (Getty Images)
Fruit trees 101: A gardener’s CliffsNotes for growing them

If you have any interest in growing your own fruit, it’s prime time to pick up apples, plums, cherries and pears.

Scherenschnitte is a special type of German paper cutting art, and old and new examples are both seen at auctions. This modern example sold for just $40. (Cowles Syndicate Inc.)
G.B. French made this scherenschnitte in the 20th century

The Kovels were surprised French’s paper cutting art was at auction, when artwork from the 1800s is more popular.

"Diane" witch hazel produces dark copper-red flowers in winter, providing quite a show against its bare branches. (Richie Steffen)
Great Plant Pick: Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane,’ Diane witch hazel

“Diane” witch hazel produces dark copper-red flowers in winter, providing quite a show against its bare branches.

Shylah Hallam-Noel left, a worker at Queen Anne Healthcare, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility in Seattle, receives the second shot of the Pfizer vaccination for COVID-19, Friday, Jan. 8, 2021, from a Walgreens Pharmacist, right. The facility had an outbreak of COVID-19 in May of 2020 that resulted in more than 100 positive cases among staff and residents, including Allen, and the deaths of 20 residents and two staff members. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
The tricky road to herd immunity, explained

Three researchers who study the spread of infectious disease offer a reality check on how far we’ve come — and how far we have to go.

Photo by Wes Anthony/Firehouse Creative
Lead actress Shannyn Sossamon talks with filmmakers Andrew Morehouse,center, and Nate
Bell while filming “The Hour After Westerly” at the Fort Casey Inn.
Watch film featuring Whidbey Island for free through Jan. 16

The “Twilight Zone”-esque “The Hour After Westerly” is based on a short story by Robert M. Coates.

Mead maker Jeremy Kyncl pours a tasting glass of Hawthorn Tulsi Mead, a blend of hawthorn berry and holy basil, in the new Whidbey tasting room of Hierophant Meadery. Photo by Kira Erickson/South Whidbey Record
Whidbey Island meadery off to a sweet start

Jeremy Kyncl and Michelle Scandalis of Hierophant Meadery in Freeland brew their mead with local honey.

Next year’s Sustainable Gardening Winter Speaker Series includes a “Hummingbird Madness” class with the one and only Ciscoe Morris. (Anna Medwenitsch)
Home and garden events and resources around Snohomish County

Home and garden events and resources around Snohomish County

Most Read