Gosling, Crowe two birds of a comic feather in 'Nice Guys'
Once you hear it, you know that Ryan Gosling emits the most obnoxious high-frequency man-scream in movie history as an L.A. gumshoe in Shane Black's sex-and-violence-soaked action comedy "The Nice Guys."
Gosling's wail achieves even screechier heights than Daniel Stern's off-the-charts, tarantula-on-the-face-inspired man-scream from "Home Alone."
As inept detective Holland March, Gosling first unleashes this unnatural sound when Russell Crowe's thug-for-hire, Jackson Healy, pays him a visit and fractures his forearm.
You can just tell it's the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
March, an insecure bundle of neuroses and stunted intellect, reluctantly teams up with Healy, a human tank dispensing violence as if it were a routine way to greet people.
Together, they tool around a crime-infested, grime-congested 1977 City of Angles -- I mean Angels -- a neon-lighted cesspool of porn and smog where even kids on bikes hustle info for a buck.
March and Healy need to find a brunette named Amelia (Margaret Qualley), a shadowy figure in a yellow dress, and the apparent key to a mystery involving a missing, politically hot porn film, and an apparent conspiracy by the Big Three automobile makers to put the kibosh on an invention, the catalytic converter.
Amelia turns out to be the errant daughter of a tough cookie from the Department of Justice (an icy cool Kim Basinger) who also wants to find Amelia. Why? Why really?
As Healy and March discover, Amelia apparently acted in an "experimental" movie (also called "porn") shortly before her boyfriend/filmmaker's house burned to the ground.
Now, an assassin named John Boy (Matt Bomer, emanating dark villainy) intends to knock off everyone associated with that movie. Why?
"The Nice Guys" may not be "Chinatown," but it could be an updated "Lethal Weapon."
Black wrote that original 1987 Danny Glover/Mel Gibson movie, the prototype for violent, R-rated cop buddy action comedies. In 2005, he made his directorial debut with another splendid but underrated seedy crime comedy "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang."
Here, Black goes for broke, not just on March's arm. He amps up the violence, the sex and nudity, and especially the comedy, a mixture of genre-skewering humor and audaciously daring physical funny business by Gosling.
As the leisure-suited March, informed by his idealistic 13-year-old daughter Holly (a most promising Angourie Rice) that he's "the world's worst detective," Gosling bravely ventures into risky comedy territory.
When Healy surprises March in a restroom stall, Gosling's fumbling antics with a gun, lighted cigarette and a magazine are master strokes of manipulated mayhem, equaled only by the actor's superb, wheezing, out-of-breath tribute to Lou Costello (from the old Abbott & Costello comedy team) after he tumbles down a mountainside and eventually kerplops next to a bloody corpse.
Gruff, tough, rough, but not buff, Crowe parlays his extra poundage into a formidable enforcer figure. He supplies the perfect anchor for Gosling's sincere but flighty flatfoot.
"The Nice Guys" tends to trip over needlessly confusing complications from time to time, and the movie's 116-minute length could have been tightened up to create an even punchier action experience.
Just as long as nobody messes with Gosling's eardrum-curdling man-scream.
"The Nice Guys"★ ★ ★
Starring: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Keith David, Kim Basinger, Murielle Telio
Directed by: Shane Black
Other: A Warner Bros. release. Rated R for drug use, language, nudity, sexual situations, violence. 116 minutes