Shane Black (USA, 1961) wrote the scripts for countless films, including
Richard Donner's Lethal Weapon,
Tony Scott's The Last Boy Scout,
John McTiernan's Last Action Hero,
Renny Harlin's The Long Kiss Goodnight.
He debuted as a director with the acrobatically convoluted Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005), which is a hilarious and exhilarating mix of thriller, film noir, love story and slapstick. The protagonist is not only the narrator but also the commentators, frequently interrupting the film to tell us what he thinks of it, and even apologizing at the end for the happy ending.
The film also has an existential undercurrent, that life is as much about happenstance as it is about planning, and that the plans mostly fail while chance often leads to the best outcomes.
It is about the chaos of ordinary lives that try to be extraordinary.
The film opens with the scene of a county fair where two children stage a magician show. The boy introduces the century-old act that consists in sawing the girl who is trapped inside a box. The girl starts screaming as if she were being sawed for real, but instead she's just pretending: her dream is to become an actress.
The film than opens on day 1 at a Hollywood party. Harry is walking among the producers and actors and
Meanwhile he introduces us to Harlan, the wealthy host of the party, and to Perry, a gay private detective who is hired as a consultant.
Henry tells us in a flashback how he got there. He was robbing a store with a friend when the cops caught them in the act and his friend got shot. Henry ran away and walked into a studio where an audition was going on. The producer thought that Henry was an aspiring actor ready to audition for the part and let him read the part. By coincidence the script was about a friend getting killed and Henry broke down so sincerely, thinking of his friend who just died during the robbery, that he convinced the producer to hire him and fly him to Los Angeles to play a private detective. Perry is hired to coach him.
Henry picks up the gossip that Harlan and his daughter Veronica have been reconciled after a bitter feud over the will of Harlan's dead wife
At the party Henry he sees Harmony, an aspiring actress.
A flashback tells us that Harmony grew up in a small town, was a fun of a writer named Gossamer who specializes in thrillers, her father molested
her sister Jenna, and one day the 16-year-old Harmony left on a bus for Los Angeles, determined to become an actress.
Just when she was watching Protocop on television, the actor playing Protocop
entered her apartment and she scared him with a baseball bat, and he fell off
the balcony injuring himself. The film's producer saw her on the TV news and
decided to invite her to the party.
Now at the party she falls asleep after browsing Harlan's library of Gossamer
novels. Henry finds a man trying to lift her skirt while she is asleep and gets into a fight trying to stop him. He gets beaten up and later he sees them walking out together, i.e. he wasn't just a stranger trying to take advantage of an unconscious girl, but more like her date.
Perry and Henry chat about the girl and Perry tells Henry where Harmony hangs out.
Henry finds her there and sits next to her at the counter. She is unfriendly and soon another woman attacks verbally Henry, as if she is Harmony's lesbian lover.
But then Harmony recognizes Henry as a childhood friend: he was the boy at the
county fair when she pretended to get hurt inside the box.
Now we learn that Harmony slept with every boy in town except for Henry, who loved her, and for Henry's best friend, out of respect for Henry's feelings.
She admits to Henry that she failed: she only manages to feature in a beer commercial.
He invites her to his place for a drink and, to prove that he doesn't have any intention of seducing her, tells her to bring her lesbian friend too.
The following morning he wakes up in bed with her friend: somehow he got drunk
and slept with the wrong woman. He apologizes in vain to Harmony who is furious.
But she believes him to be a detective.
On Day 2 of his Los Angeles trip, Perry takes him to a countryside cabin to show him his job. He has been hired by a woman named Allison to film the occupants.
Perry and Henry follow a car that leaves the cabin and see the car being
driven into the lake. As the car is sinking, they jump in to see if anyone
is inside. Perry dives and realizes someone is in the trunk and shoots through the trunk to open it. He reemerges carrying the body of a dead woman.
Just then two thugs, presumably the same men who dumped the car, see them.
Perry and Henry realize that it looks like they killed the girl, especially
since Perry accidentally shot her in the head, and they run away.
While Perry is driving him home, Henry receives a call from a cop that Harmony
killed herself. However, Harmony shows up at his apartment to tell him that
his sister Jenna committed suicide and was mistaken by the police for her.
Harmony suspects that she was murdered and wants Henry, whom she believes to be
a detective, to investigate her death.
Henry calls Perry to inform him that Harmony is alive and, while he is peeing in
the bathroom, he sees that someone dumped the dead woman's corpse in his bathroom.
Perry tells him to run immediately because someone is clearly trying to frame him and probably the police are on their way. In fact, they are already there:
luckily Harmony runs into them and sends them to the wrong apartment, giving
Henry time to wrap the corpse in a sheet and throw it down the balcony.
Then Perry helps him dump the corpse.
On Day 3 Harmony and Henry discuss Jenna's suicide at a restaurant.
It turns out that Harmony always told Jenna that the man molesting her was not
their real father, that the real father was in Los Angeles, hence Jenna must
have come to Los Angeles to find her real father.
Perry interrupts them because all television channels are discussing the
discovery of the corpse and she's been identified as Harlan's daughter Veronica.
Perry tells Henry that he has no chance to get the part in the film and tells
him to leave town. At the airport he discovers by accident that Allison is the
stage name used by Harmony.
Jenna used Harmony's credit card which is in the name of Allison.
Suddenly Henry realizes that Jenna is the woman who hired Perry, who never met
this Allison but only knows that's the name on the credit card used to pay him.
Jenna had hired Perry to spy on someone. Henry cancels his flight and rushes
to Harmony's place but she is so furious at him that she slams the door on his hand severing a finger.
While he is at the hospital, Harmony works at a nightclub. She calls Henry who
is intoxicated by painkillers and tells him that whole Harlan crowd is there.
Henry rushes there. Harmony shows Henry and Perry an old movie,
based on a Gossamer novel, in which Harlan plays a character. The movie was
filmed near Harmony's home when she was a child. Now they realize that Jenna
came to believe that Harlan was her real father and that she came to Los
Angeles to find him.
Two thugs, the white Mike and the black Mustard, grab him and torture him
to convince him to leave town: he realizes they are the men who dumped
the car in the lake. Harmony is driving Henry to the hospital when she
sees Mike and Mustard driving towards Perry's stakeout. While Henry is in pain
on the back seat, she follows them to Perry's stakeout trying to warn Perry
that they are about to kill him. Harmony sees Perry following a woman with a pink wig, and this woman signaling to the thugs. Harmony neutralizes Mustard
and saves Perry who is about to be run over by Mike's car.
Perry kills Mike. The pink-haired woman runs away and steals Harmony's car with Henry unconscious in the back seat.
The woman drives to a villa. Henry wakes up and enters the house and hides
under a couch. He witnesses Mustard killing the woman. Mustard then leaves
the fun on the couch. Henry grabs the gun and kills him, then puts the gun
in the woman's hand to make it look like she killed him.
His drops his finger and a dog eats it.
The case seems to be closed: the thugs and the pink-haired woman are
considered the kidnappers and killers of Veronica. It is still not clear,
however, why Jenna hired Perry: if she knew of the plot to kill Veronica,
she could have just told the police. However, Perry refuses to continue
the investigation, afraid of getting killed.
Henry takes Harmony to his place. They get drunk.
She confesses that she's a loser.
Henry confesses that he was just a small-time thief.
They almost have sex but she confesses that she slept even with his best friend,
contrary to what she always told him, and he is disgusted.
Meanwhile, Henry has mentioned something that puzzles him: Veronica was
supposed to be a born-again Christian but Henry remembers that the corpse
had no underwear, and the police found no trace of rape.
On the way out Harmony thinks about it and has an idea.
On Day 4 Perry wakes up Henry and tells him that Harmony left him a message
about what Henry said. Perry realizes that Veronica must have been a patient
in a mental hospital, a place where women don't wear undergarments.
Perry guesses that Veronica never made peace with her father: her father
Harlan locked her in the mental hospital and used Jenna, who wanted to be
his daughter, to impersonate Veronica.
Thinking that they have kidnapped Harmony, Henry and Perry torture a nurse,
and Henry accidentally kills him, feeling horrible about it.
Just then Harmony calls Perry: she's at home, safe.
Harlan captures Perry and Henry at the clinic, but Henry has time to tell
Harmony who is calling Perry. Harlan has Henry tortured with electrical
shocks at the testicles, but Perry manages to kill the torturer.
Harmony arrives and steals the van with the coffin, ready for the creamatory,
chased by Harlan's thugs. In a shoot out Perry is killed, and Henry wounded.
Harmony crashes the van and the coffin is left hanging from an overpass.
Henry gets up but Harlan's car tries to hit Henry and Henry has to jump from
the overpass. He ends up on the coffin, grabbing the hand of the corpse.
When Harlan tries to shoot him, Henry is lucky enough that a gun falls in his
hand and he shoots Harlan dead. Then he falls from the overpass and is saved
by the car of Harlan's thugs that is just then passing by looking for Harmony - amazing luck.
He kills the thugs and finds Harmony.
He shows her that he has been saved by a Gossamer book that he kept in a pocket
and slowed down the bullet.
When he wakes up at the hospital, Perry is alive.
(Henry interrupts the film and apologizes for the lame resurrection of Perry).
Perry tells Harmony that Jenna committed suicide, was not murdered.
The woman impersonating Veronica was the pink-haired woman.
Jenna hired Perry because she saw Harlan have sex with the pink-haired
woman: her father having sex with his own daughter. Her own old father-and-daughhter trauma. And she killed herself.
After Jenna's funeral in her small town, Perry slaps her abusive father.
The film ends with Henry stepping out of the film and discussing the film that
we have just seen as a film about friendship.
Henry now works for Perry. Perry shuts him up, says goodbye to the audience,
and turns off the TV set of the viewer.
After this promising debut, he wasted his talent as a director on
Iron Man 3 (2013),
The Nice Guys (2016) and The Predator (2018).