The key scene in Shane Black’s The Nice Guys happens early on, and it’s such a good gag that I’m loathe to spoil it, so if you have yet to see the movie, maybe skip to the end of this paragraph. Low-rent private eye Holland March (Ryan Gosling) is trying to track down a lead, and tries unsuccessfully to get a bartender to pull receipts for him. March comes back to the bar after closing time, wraps a handkerchief around his fist, and punches a hole in the window to sneak in, all the while giving typical hardboiled narration about how sometimes as a detective, you have to break the rules, “but it’s worth it as long as you get the results.” Except as soon as he punches the window out, his narration is cut short when he gets a nasty cut on his wrist, retches, collapses into a pile of garbage, and in a montage is rushed to the hospital. This scene is an exemplary manifestation of screenwriter/director Shane Black’s aim to simultaneously celebrate the genre of neo-noir and hilariously puncture its self-serious tough guy attitude.
Tag: Shane Black
If you look at the biggest neo-noirs of the aughts and squint, you can almost see a series of controlled experiments, each taking the noir concept in a new-ish direction. Memento filtered the grit of the genre through non-linear storytelling; Sin City was Grand Guignol, a comic book come to life; Mulholland Drive was a baffling art film; Brick was half farce, half tragedy and set in high school; and The Man Who Wasn’t There was, well, a Coen brothers movie.
Who is the real Samantha Caine? It’s the question that looms over The Long Kiss Goodnight, the 1996 shoot-em-up written by Shane Black and directed by Renny Harlin. For eight long years, Samantha (Geena Davis) has wondered this every time she looks in the mirror and sees a body riddled with scars she doesn’t remember getting. Is she just another mousy, small-town schoolteacher and mother who heads the PTA or was she once another kind of woman entirely?
With the help of a private eye (Samuel Jackson) — the cheapest one her money can buy — she hopes to finally learn just who that woman was that she kissed goodnight all those years ago. Only now, she doesn’t have much of a choice: she has to figure it out fast, because the clock is ticking and her dark past is about to determine the outcome of her future.
Tony Scott’s The Last Boy Scout is book-ended by scenes of violence taking place in football arenas, time-honored spaces of an American pastime. In the opening sequence, a young player walks onto the field and opens fire – an ominous opener that seems especially bleak this far removed from 1991. In the showstopper climax, a sniper stationed high above the action on field is attacked by one of our leads, eventually gunned down by the police and – in the film’s Grand Guignol moment – then falls into the spinning rotor of a helicopter, rendering his body into a mere splatter of blood. In these moments, The Last Boy Scout feels most like Scott’s film, yet everything in between is explicitly from the pen of its writer, Shane Black. Only this time, Black’s war isn’t on Christmas. It’s on America.
US, 2005. Rated R. 102 min. Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer, Michelle Monaghan, Corbin Bensen; Music: Scott Hardkiss, John Ottman, Lior Rosner; Cinematography: Michael Barrett; Written by Brett Halliday and Shane Black; Directed by Shane Black.
Shane Black, the writer and director of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, was the original Hollywood screenwriting fairy tale. At the age of 24, in 1985, he sold his first screenplay for a quarter of a million dollars and in the process invented a certain kind of action film that defined Hollywood in the late 80s and early 90s.