Few things in life are as enjoyable as Shane Black’s criminally underrated The Last Boy Scout. The birth of your first child. Maybe a good steak. But that’s it. Nothing else beats The Last Boy Scout. It’s a Molotov cocktail of hilarious dialogue, Halle Berry stripping, a killer stuffed animal named Furry Tom, and Bruce Willis f*cking a squirrel to death. So yeah, it’s pretty much the greatest movie ever made.
If we lived in a perfect world, The Last Boy Scout would’ve garnered universal acclaim and generated a lasting franchise. As it stands, the movie is a forgotten gem that doesn’t even have its own Blu-ray — you have to purchase it in a two-pack with Last Man Standing. For shame, Warner Brothers.
As much as John McClane is Bruce’s signature character, it’s Detective Joe Hallenbeck that deserves his own franchise. Hallenbeck is a natural fit for Willis: sarcastic, down-on-his-luck, hard to kill, and full of witty one-liners. He also dances a mean jig. Actually, he’s pretty much cut from the same cloth as McClane, but with the benefit of Shane Black’s superior tailoring. How can you not want to see another movie with a detective that says, “You even look at my daughter and I’m going to stick an umbrella up your ass and open it.” Everyone should talk like that.
Say what you will about Andrew Dice Clay, but there was a brief moment in time where the man was a comedy God. At the height of his popularity, legendary producer Joel Silver thought it would be a good idea to make an action movie starring Andrew Dice Clay. God bless him for the audacity and stupidity.
There’s nothing about The Adventures of Ford Fairlane that’s particularly well made. Or subtle. It’s a movie that coasts on the fumes generated by the sleazy charm of Andrew Dice Clay. His Ford Fairlane is a vulgar, misogynistic dickhead that makes no apologies for being a complete prick to every man, woman, and child that crosses his path. There’s little to no difference between Ford Fairlane and Andrew Dice Clay, which is fine because they’re both equally hilarious.
Similar to Detective Joe Hallenbeck in The Last Boy Scout, Ford Fairlane is a character that exists to spout off great one-liners. “Hey, great pipes, huh? I’ve heard cats f*ck with more harmony.” Or even better, “What are your names, Neil and Bob, or is that just what you do?” Unfortunately, audiences were unwilling to take the case and doomed The Adventures of Ford Fairlane to obscurity.
Mitch Henessey from The Long Kiss Goodnight
“The last time I got blown candy bars cost a nickel.” That’s one of the many colorful pearls of wisdom tossed out by Samuel L. Jackson’s perpetually put-upon private detective Mitch Henessey. He’s a chain-smoking, shot-drinking, womanizing son-of-a-bitch and Jackson absolutely kills it. Other than his star-making role in Pulp Fiction, this is Jackson’s finest hour. Unless you count Coach Carter. In which case, you’re a moron.
What’s so great about Henessey is that he’s not good at his job. He’s a below average detective, fresh out of prison, recently divorced, and barely scraping by. The guy can’t even afford to give his son a proper Christmas present, which is precisely what makes him so endearing. He’s a complete f*ckup. So many times we see the private detective presented as a smooth operator, deftly maneuvering around the bad guys. Not Henessey. He was born to lose.
Henessey may not be the most qualified detective for the job, but he’ll give it his best shot, and may even die trying. Actually, scratch that. Henessey is indestructible and can’t die. For real. During the course of The Long Kiss Goodnight he’s tortured, shot, blown-up, and then some. And by the end, he’s miraculously still ticking. Let’s see Phillip Marlowe top that.
Harry Lockhart and Gay Perry from Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Next to The Last Boy Scout and The Long Kiss Goodnight, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is the most under-appreciated detective movie since…The Last Boy Scout and The Long Kiss Goodnight. So much for variety. Random coincidence: all three of those movies were written by Shane Black. What is it with Black and poorly received detective movies? At least Lethal Weapon was successful.
For those of you that don’t know, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was the movie that relaunched the career of Robert Downey Jr. If it wasn’t for this little detective movie, there wouldn’t be an Iron Man. Or at least it wouldn’t have starred Robert Downey Jr. Not only is the guy a phenomenal actor, but he’s an inspiration to drug addicts everywhere — even if you snort a line of coke off a public urinal there’s still a place for you in Hollywood. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of Val Kilmer. Apparently, if you’re fat there’s no place for you in the entertainment industry. Maybe Kilmer should snort coke.
Like the cheap detective novels that Shane Black draws his inspiration from, the plot of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is convoluted and difficult to sum up without being confusing. And frankly, who really gives a sh*t about the story. It’s all about Downey and Kilmer bouncing off one another. Figuratively, not literally. Cliff notes version: Robert Downey Jr. plays Harry Lockhart, an idiot thief turned private detective-in-training under the cruel tutelage of the brilliantly named Gay Perry, Val Kilmer. And yes, Gay Perry is actually gay.
The stroke of genius, however, is that Gay Perry is the action hero and Robert Downey Jr. is an ineffectual schmuck. The chemistry between the two partners — and that’s partners in the non-homosexual sense — is electric. You can’t watch Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and not cry out for a sequel. It’s the crowning achievement of Shane Black’s long and storied career, and when you’re the screenwriter of Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, The Long Kiss Goodnight, and even f*king Monster Squad, that’s saying something.