Movie review of ‘The Nice Guys’: Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling team up for buddy-comedy-action-thriller that almost works. Rating. 2.5 stars out of 4.

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“Do you have a clue what just happened?” a character demands, at the end of Shane Black’s private-eye-buddy-comedy-action-thriller “The Nice Guys.” Um, not really, but I do know one thing: Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling are very, very funny together. Maybe, someday, they’ll team up and make a classic comedy; a sort of “Some Like It Hot”-ish thing in which they go undercover and, respectively, growl and grin a lot.

In the meantime, we have “The Nice Guys,” which is one of those movies that probably sounded awfully good in a pitch meeting: Russell Crowe as a grumpy hired-enforcer guy! Ryan Gosling as a down-on-his-luck-but-nonetheless-charming private detective! Throw in, oh, a 1970s setting, a dead porn star, a daughter for the Gosling character who is Wise Beyond Her Years (as nearly all little girls in movies are required to be), and a lot of gratuitous gun violence!

It should have worked, and it almost does, but Black buries his characters in a sputtering, chaotic story, seeming to realize only sporadically that we aren’t watching this film for the plot and the stunts (how many times can Gosling fall off something? Seriously, he’s like Rasputin here), but for the byplay between the two main characters. And — who knew? — Crowe and Gosling have comic chemistry to burn.

Movie Review ★★½  

‘The Nice Guys,’ with Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Keith David, Beau Knapp, Kim Basinger. Directed by Shane Black, from a screenplay by Black and Anthony Bagarozzi. 117 minutes. Rated R for violence, sexuality, nudity, language and brief drug use. Several theaters.

Crowe, his voice sounding like ominous sandpaper, slouches through the movie in a spectacularly ugly blue jacket and a perpetual state of exasperation; Gosling demonstrates his already-known sleepy charm and an unexpected knack for physical comedy, particularly in a scene involving a bathroom stall, a pair of pants around his ankles, and a magazine. Bantering, arguing or just glaring at each other, they make “The Nice Guys” far more entertaining than it deserves to be; let’s hope that, for the inevitable “Nice Guys 2,” somebody gives them the script they deserve.