100 Films’ 100 Favourites #49
Sex. Murder. Mystery.
Welcome to the party.
Runtime: 103 minutes
Original Release: 14th September 2005 (France)
US Release: 21st October 2005
UK Release: 11th November 2005
First Seen: cinema, 2005
Robert Downey Jr. (Chaplin, Zodiac)
Val Kilmer (Top Gun, Batman Forever)
Michelle Monaghan (Mission: Impossible III, Source Code)
Shane Black (Iron Man 3, The Nice Guys)
Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout)
Bodies Are Where You Find Them, a novel by Brett Halliday.
After accidentally getting cast in a movie, fugitive crook Harry Lockhart is given on-the-job experience with private eye ‘Gay’ Perry van Shrike. When the pair become witnesses to a murder that it looks like they committed, they become embroiled in a conspiracy that they’ll have to untangle to save themselves.
Harry Lockhart is our narrator: a crappy thief who stumbles into an acting audition while on the run from the cops, and ends up whisked off to Hollywood to play the lead in a mystery movie. To help him prepare for the role he shadows Gay Perry, a top L.A. P.I., who’s consistently, hilariously sarcastic. Also, homosexual.
It’s a murder mystery, so, that’s kind of a spoiler. Also: almost not the point.
Best Supporting Character
Harry happens to run into his childhood crush Harmony Lane, now working as a waitress in L.A. Soon she’s asking him to investigate her sister’s recent suicide, which she thinks was actually a murder. That subplot isn’t at all related to the main case. Nope.
Perry: “Go. Sleep badly. Any questions, hesitate to call.”
Perry: “Excuse me?”
Harry: “Sleep bad. Otherwise it makes it seem like the mechanism that allows you to sleep—”
Perry: “What, fuckhead? Who taught you grammar? Badly’s an adverb. Get out. Vanish.”
Arriving back at his hotel room after they’ve witnessed the murder, Harry goes into the bathroom to take a leak. As he’s doing that, he glances round… and sees the girl’s body in the shower. He turns to look at it in shock… and pisses all over it. Cue hilarious exchange when he phones Perry for help.
5 Saturn nominations (Action/Adventure/Thriller Film, Actor (Robert Downey Jr.), Supporting Actor (Val Kilmer), Supporting Actress (Michelle Monaghan), Music)
1 Phoenix Film Critics Society Award (Overlooked Film of the Year)
What the Critics Said
“the plot of the film is almost willfully convoluted. But it’s also largely beside the point, an excuse for quite a few good scenes, most of them equal parts homage and subversion. The familiar ingredients of the hard-boiled school (and the noir cinema it spawned) are all here: the half-glittering, half-seedy L.A. setting; the protagonist’s expository voiceover; the jaded but ultimately decent private eye; the dead body that mysteriously turns up exactly where it’s not wanted. But Black gives each element a satiric twist: the tough shamus is gay; the corpse is discovered in a bathroom and accidentally peed on; the first-person narrator is not so much unreliable as simply incompetent.” — Christopher Orr, The Atlantic
What the Public Say
“What’s unexpected about the movie is just how funny it is despite all the graphic murder, incest, torture, suicide, and dismemberment that occurs. […] Black effortlessly moves between legitimately realistic, unsettling violence (a murder witnessed by Harry midway through the film is a prime example of this) to wacky, slapstick violence (a late-in-the-movie Russian Roulette-style interrogation that does not, shall we say, go particularly well, for instance) without ever losing his balance. The real joy of the movie, though, is watching Val Kilmer and Robert Downey Jr. bounce off one another.” — Jake Farley, 10 Years Ago: Films in Retrospective
One-time “highest paid screenwriter in Hollywood” Shane Black made his directorial debut with this satirical neo-noir, which can be credited with reviving Robert Downey Jr’s career for the third or fourth time (it led directly to him being cast in Iron Man). The film’s best quality is probably its humorous dialogue — choosing just one memorable quote was hard, though many come in lengthy exchanges. Downey Jr is hilarious, of course, but even he’s outmatched by Val Kilmer as sarky investigator Gay Perry. Even more impressively, love interest Michelle Monaghan holds her own against them both. The plot may be so confusing it’s easily forgotten, but the whodunnit reveal is beside the point when the journey there is so entertaining.
#50 will… retrace each and every one of the Baudelaire children’s woeful steps.