The opening is pure [Shane] Black: we soar over the ruined ‘70s Hollywood sign to catch a boy sneaking his dad’s porno mag and ogling the centerfold, just before a car driven by said centerfold crashes through his house and plunges into the ravine below. The boy investigates, finds her dying and topless, and covers her with his shirt before the cops arrive. Fleshy indulgence, outlandish violence, and basic decency, boom, boom, boom. And then the bubbles leave the hot tub, and all we’re left with is Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe as Nic Cage and John Goodman, er, as a lousy PI (and worse father) and a self-loathing puncher for hire, stumbling their way from a missing girl to a major case. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be both great fun and warmly human, but alas, it just isn’t either. Gosling is an antic monkey who can’t put across the guilt he supposedly feels over his wife’s death and the loss of his family home. Crowe can’t seem to distinguish between world-weariness and the regular kind. Daughter Angourie Rice isn’t so much wise beyond her years as she is a miniature adult, except when the script necessitates otherwise. (She bounces from declaring “I need a drink” to asking Daddy to pinky swear that he’ll come through.) And until the admittedly bang-up finish, the story lurches along like it overindulged at one of its own parties. (2016) — Matthew Lickona
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