Here’s my film reviewing process: I never watch trailers (in advance), I go to the movie, I take notes, I return home and look at the notes, sometimes visit the Internet Movie Data Base (IMDB.com) for little details, then write it up. During my screening of “The Nice Guys,” I jotted in my notebook, “closest thing to a noir comedy since “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.”

Now, I see an average of three new movies a week, about 150 or 160 a year, every year. That’s a lot of movies to keep track of, and my memory is, shall we say, not what it used to be. “Kiss Kiss” came out 10 years ago. So imagine my surprise (or non-surprise) when I looked up “The Nice Guys” on IMDB and realized (or remembered) that Shane Black, who wrote it and directed it, also wrote and directed “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.”

That underappreciated noir comedy was great; this new one is better.

“The Nice Guys” is set in the 1970s. Black wants you to know that right away, so the music behind the opening credits is the infectious 70s hit “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” by the Temptations (later reminders of the time include glimpses of movie posters, including “Jaws 2” and “Airport ’77”).

But beyond atmospherics, Black has put together a nasty and entertaining mystery that gets into areas of murder and pornography and politics, and especially into that favorite of genres, the buddy film.

The film opens with a terrible car crash, resulting in the death of a porn star named Misty Mountains. Then there’s an introduction to Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe), a thuggish, no-nonsense “fixer,” which means he’s hired to put on a pair of brass knux and convince people to stop doing what they’re doing. Another introduction is to Holland March (Ryan Gosling), former cop, now private investigator, widower, and father of a feisty young girl.

March has been hired to find a mysterious young woman named Amelia. But Healy has been hired to make sure March stops looking for Amelia. Healy is a weary tough guy (definitely not a nice guy), and March is excitable and accident prone. Their first meeting does not go well, and March, in pain, agrees to back off the case. But when Healy is later worked over by a couple of thugs, demanding to know of Amelia’s whereabouts, he revisits March, and tells him they’re now going to work together. Ah, yes, a buddy film. But neither of these fellows really likes each other. That fact, along with March’s clumsiness, makes for some good comedy.

But what they get wrapped up in, as happens in most noir films, leads to lots of little puzzle pieces that just don’t seem to fit together. What were the circumstances of that car crash? Is there a connection between Amelia and Misty Mountains? How about the reported strained relationship between Amelia and her mom, Judith Kutner (Kim Basinger), who works over at the Department of Justice, where she’s on an anti-porn campaign?

There are sight gags left and right, and they share space, somewhat uncomfortably, with plentiful nudity and a regularly rising body count. Yet even some of the harsh violence is successfully fashioned to come across as pretty funny.

But more than the ongoing plot twists that will draw viewers deeper into the film (another noir component), there’s some first-rate acting. Crowe and Gosling are quite adept at comedy, perfectly playing off of their characters’ strengths and weaknesses, and doing it with a naturalness that makes it seem their dialogue is real, and not from a script. Keeping right up with them is young Australian actress Angourie Rice, as March’s daughter, the smart and sassy 13-year-old Holly.

One great example of both how different and how much fun the film is concerns her relationship with her dad. A running gag suggests that March is far more concerned with Holly practicing proper grammar when she speaks than the fact that she cusses all the time. Nice.

— Ed Symkus covers movies for More Content Now.

“The Nice Guys”
Written by Shane Black and Anthony Bagarozzi; directed by Shane Black
With Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Kim Basinger
Rated R