Monday, June 9, 2008


Harry Lockhart: She had something, that gal tonight, this quality. Like the girl from high school ... the one that got away. You know what I mean? That haunts you still.

Gay Perry: Yeah, I had that.

HL: You did?

GP: Bobby Mills.

HL: Huh. Well, maybe you should try to get in touch with him. I got 5 bucks says you could still get him.

GP: Really? That's funny. I got a 10 says, "Pass the pepper." I got two quarters singing harmony on "Moonlight in Vermont."

HL: What?

GP: Talking money.

HL: A talking monkey?

GP: Talking monkey, yeah. Came here from the future. Ugly sucker. Only says, "Ficus."

--KISS KISS BANG BANG, writ. and dir. Shane Black (2005), with Robert Downey Jr. as Harry Lockhart and Val Kilmer as Gay Perry

Nobody writes dialogue like this ... only Shane Black and Groucho Marx. Black is the highly paid screenwriter of a series of "L" action movies--LETHAL WEAPON, THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT, and THE LAST BOY SCOUT, which gave Bruce Willis the quip, "I think I fucked a squirrel to death ..." (trust me, in context, it was hilarious).

Black's 2005 directorial debut, KISS KISS BANG BANG, is an under-appreciated, media-savvy noir comedy, with bullets and one-liners flying in rapid-fire succession. And like other Black screenplays, KKBB centers on the Christmas season, with a distinctive L.A. (i.e., neon decadent) gloss. Black is one of a small band of screenwriters (Quentin Tarantino, Woody Allen, Charlie Kaufman) whose scripts have distinctive tendencies.

And this one has a gay private detective, nicknamed Gay Perry, played, without affectations, by Val Kilmer. As a development in the action genre, this is kind of a big deal because the unwritten rule in action films is that heroes are 100% straight and gay characters are good only for punchlines and a punch in the face.

Black's previous screenplays bear an undercurrent of homoeroticism (typical buddy film pairings and male bonding) and occasionally a sense of homosexual menace--like Taylor Negron's Milo, the psychotic sissy in TLBS--not to mention the obligatory climactic torture scene in which Mel Gibson or Bruce Willis has to be stripped and drenched--or, in Geena Davis's case in TLKG, water-boarded till her blouse is see-through.

Gay Perry is not a typical Hollywood gay--neither the righteous long-suffering role model nor the funny, flighty sidekick. He is, in his own words, "not a nice guy." He can handle himself in a fight. And he's not idealistic or sentimental about the work he does. Like most noir heroes, he apparently has got his demons--something in the past certainly turned him into the half-jaded cynic that he is.

But apart from the passing reference to "Bobby Mills" and some significant eye contact with a male nurse, we don't see Perry in sexual situations. His gay/straight buddying with Harry Lockhart parallels (and significantly illuminates) the black/white buddying in LW, TLKG, and TLBS.

Typically you won't hear me call for sequels, but I think I would enjoying seeing Gay Perry and Harry team up again sometime--perhaps in KISS KISS KISS BANG BANG BANG.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...