Starring: Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Val Kilmer (Willow), Michelle Monaghan (Eagle Eye)
Why I Watched It: Hello--a satire on all film noir? AND Robert Downey? A must-see.
Review: While running from the police after his partner is shot dead during a break-in gone awry, petty thief Harry Lockhart bursts into open auditions for a cop film, and in the midst of his grief and panic, is invited to a call-back and flown to LA. Here, he meets Gay Perry, a sarcastic private detective who agrees to tutor him on his role for the film, and is reacquanted with his childhood friend, Harmony, who is now a struggling actress. A series of deaths, including the apparent suicide of Harmony's long-estranged sister, delve the three into the underbelly of Los Angeles to solve them, eventually giving way to a much more complicated Old Hollywood-style mystery
From the first scene, a flashback to a magic show he and Harmony performed, Harry (in a voiceover) makes it known that he's aware he's in a film. That is what originally hooked me on this movie--I'm a sucker for meta-fiction. But that is not the only thing. The dialogue is consistantly witty and funny, especially from Robert Downey Jr. (of course) and Val Kilmer, who both give excellent perfomances. Michelle Monaghan, as Harmony, is surprisingly enjoyable (I had seen Made of Honor and Eagle Eye before this, which is why I was skeptical, as both of those royally sucked shit).
The plot is well-paced and only slightly ridiculous (anything remotely unbelievable is immediatly addressed by the ever-present narrator, who frequently freeze-frames and corrects himself or the story). The director, Shane Black (usually seen directing big-budget Lethal Weapon films in no particular order) directs with ease and without the awkwardness normally seen when action directors try to transition to independant anything. You laugh when you're supposed to laugh, and so on.
My one complaint isn't some of the pitch-black humor (child abuse, molestation, gruesome desposal of corpses), as with most people I know who've watched it, but some of the dialogue, which, much of the time, only seems there for the purpose of showing off the actors' rapid-fire verbal skills (again, especially Downey Jr.).
Other cast members include Corbin Bernsen (Psych) as shady billionaire Harlan Dexter, Larry Miller (10 Things I Hate About You) as casting director Dabney Shaw, Dash Mihok and Rockmond Dunbar (I have no idea where these two are from) as Mr. Frying Pan and Mr. Fire, respectively. Shannyn Sossamon (Wristcutters: A Love Story) appears as the never-named Pink Haired Girl, who's purpose cannot be revealed without spoilers.
Overall, an original neo-noir mystery and black comedy, with witty "I get it!" humor and perfectly deadpan performances, that follows the atypical "girls and guns" format. I would not, however, recommend watching it twice, during which time the dialogue and plot will stale, and Monaghan's Harmony grows more and more shrill and annoying.