The Bock’s Office: Laughs dominate in detective feature ‘The Nice Guys’ | CraigDailyPress.com

The Bock’s Office: Laughs dominate in detective feature ‘The Nice Guys’

Partners Jackson Healy and Holland March (Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling) arrive looking for trouble at a Hollywood party in "The Nice Guys." The movie is about a 1970s Los Angeles private investigator who teams with an enforcer to find a missing girl.

When you're looking for a priceless bird statue, you call Sam Spade. When you need a heroin trade upended, you call Popeye Doyle.

When you're searching for a missing person, but still have plenty of time for shenanigans? That's when you call "The Nice Guys."

If you go…

"The Nice Guys," rated R

Rating: 3 out of 4 stars

Running time: 116 minutes

Starring: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice and Kim Basinger

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Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.

The private eye business of 1970s Los Angeles hasn't been very kind to Holland March (Ryan Gosling), but in all fairness, he's not very good at it.

Barely making enough money to support himself and his daughter (Angourie Rice), March's professional woes are just beginning when he runs across muscle-for-hire Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe), who gives him a painful message to forget about his latest case, involving the suspicious death of a pornographic actress (Murielle Telio).

The two come into contact again when Healy approaches March about joining up to find a missing girl named Amelia (Margaret Qualley), who has plenty of bad people seeking her.

The temporary partnership has its limits tested as they go along, uncovering more than they expected amid the smog, the LA party scene and the big names that want to keep certain details under wraps.

It seems to be ages ago that Crowe was in "Mystery, Alaska," the closest thing to a comedy that he's done in his career — unless you count his singing in "Les Misérables" — but the dour Down Under import proves he can be funny as the soft-spoken enforcer with a taste for Yoo-Hoo and a knack for breaking bones just the right way, depending on the communication that needs to be imparted.

The fact that he lives in an apartment above a comedy club is just gravy.

Gosling is even better as March, a lifelong suburbanite bungler clever enough to weasel cash out of gullible clients but dumb enough to fall for every pretty face that comes along, guzzle every free drink that's served to him and incur so many accidents a fleet of stuntmen couldn't keep up with him.

Rice is a delight as his 13-year-old daughter, Holly, outspoken about her dad's shifty handling of the people who hire him and managing to do as much, or more, detective work than either of the grown-ups with whom she tags along, usually under their noses.

As the man who wrote the original "Lethal Weapon" and started behind the camera with "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang," director Shane Black shows himself to be a master of mixing neo-noir qualities with laughs with a script that isn't afraid to switch its tone from serious to silly in the blink of an eye.

Black and co-writer Anthony Bagarozzi could have gone for a spoof of "The Big Sleep" or "Chinatown," but their cross-section of 1970s California works entirely on its own, ranging from the adult film industry — including a disturbing-looking feature called "Pornocchio" — to the lines at the gas pump and protests about air pollution to an all-around post-Nixon American cynicism.

As rare as Crowe's foray into comedy is, a buddy detective flick that really works is even less common, and "The Nice Guys" holds that distinction. With stars that balance each other out while still shining on their own, the pairing of such talents with a story that might not work with just anybody, only makes it twice as nice.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @TheBocksOffice.Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @TheBocksOffice.

If you go…

“The Nice Guys,” rated R

Rating: 3 out of 4 stars

Running time: 116 minutes

Starring: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice and Kim Basinger

Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.