The Films of Shane Black
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Click here for review.
Iron Man Three (July 5/13)
Directed by Shane Black, Iron Man Three follows Robert Downey Jr's Tony Stark as he's forced to take on a fearsome opponent known only as the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) - with Tony/Iron Man's efforts at battling this sinister villain hindered by his recovery from the events of The Avengers. There's little doubt that Iron Man Three, in its early stages, fares a whole lot better than one might've anticipated, with Tony's Avengers-influenced vulnerability ensuring that the character comes off as a far more down-to-earth (and, as a result, appealing) figure than in the previous films. Perpetuating the surprisingly watchable atmosphere is its dearth of action at the outset, as filmmaker Black places an emphasis on character development and plot that stands in sharp contrast to the relentlessness of most comic-book movies. It's only as Iron Man Three progresses into its distressingly uneventful midsection that the viewer's interest begins to wane, with Black's decision to stress Tony's exploits in a small town, alongside a scrappy little kid, no less, certainly wreaking havoc on the movie's increasingly tenuous momentum. (The uneven feel is compounded by the inclusion of superfluous elements seemingly designed to pad out the running time.) The film's mild success, then, is due primarily to the sporadic presence of unexpectedly enthralling sequences (eg Iron Man saves several folks plummeting from an airplane), while the uniformly strong performances - Kingsley's scene-stealing turn as the intriguing, idiosyncratic baddie is an unquestionable highlight - go a long way towards smoothing over the various bumps and lulls in the almost excessively erratic narrative. Iron Man Three is, in the end, just another middling entry in an extremely underwhelming series, with the switch from Jon Favreau to Shane Black ultimately not providing the franchise with the fresh perspective it so desperately needs.
The Nice Guys (June 14/16)
Set in 1977, The Nice Guys follows private investigators Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) and Holland March (Ryan Gosling) as they reluctantly team up to find a missing girl (Margaret Qualley's Amelia Kuttner) - with the increasingly complex case bringing the mismatched pair in contact with a whole host of off-kilter (and, often, thoroughly menacing) figures. It's clear virtually from the outset that The Nice Guys' weakest link is its often impenetrable narrative, as writer/director Shane Black offers up an investigation that takes an almost immeasurable number of twists and turns and, in the process, becomes less and less interesting as time progresses (ie the case is, after a while, all but impossible to comfortably follow). There's little doubt, then, that The Nice Guys' greatest asset is the utterly irresistible chemistry between Crowe and Gosling's respective characters, with Healy and March's almost astonishingly entertaining rapport sustaining the viewer's interest even through the movie's more indecipherable stretches. Black's thoroughly irreverent approach likewise ensures that the movie is packed with memorable images and sequences (eg Healy and March's efforts to hide a body go disastrously (and hilariously) awry), and yet it's hard to deny that The Nice Guys ultimately wears out its welcome due to a protracted third act that feels, at times, somewhat endless (ie the film continues long after passing a point at which it could naturally conclude) - which ultimately prevents the movie from becoming anything more than a sporadically entertaining, exceedingly well-acted diversion.
The Predator (September 26/18)
Shane Black's weakest film as a director (by a mile), The Predator details the chaos and violence that ensues after the title creature arrives on our planet - with the narrative following several characters, including a wacky, mismatched band of prisoners (led by Boyd Holbrook's Quinn McKenna), as they're forced to battle the fierce creature. It's Black's heavy reliance on quirky figures that immediately (and thoroughly) sinks The Predator, as the movie suffers from a palpable lack of compelling protagonists that grows more and more problematic as time progresses - with the viewer's ongoing efforts at working up interest in or sympathy for the central characters' exploits, to an increasingly distressing extent, falling disastrously flat. (And it doesn't help, certainly, that Holbrook delivers as hopelessly bland and uncharismatic a lead performance as one could possibly envision.) The movie's hands-off atmosphere is compounded by a narrative almost entirely devoid of momentum, as Black offers up a series of ineffective plot strands that, though they eventually do converge, generally remain unable to make a positive impact. It's clear, too, that the paucity of compelling sequences perpetuates The Predator's aggressively tedious vibe; though there are one or two engaging moments (eg the predator attacks and kills a room full of scientists), the bulk of the picture consists of misguided, underwhelming interludes that exacerbate the frustratingly uninvolving feel (and it doesn't help, either, that much of the movie transpires in oppressive darkness). The endless climax ultimately ensures that the whole thing concludes on a seriously lackluster note, which is a shame, certainly, given the inherent potential of a Shane Black-helmed, R-rated return to the series' violent roots.