Petty thief Harry Lockhart stumbles into an audition on the run after a break-in gone pitifully wrong and is invited to Los Angeles on the spot. On a party he meets the beautiful Harmony (Michelle Monaghan) who loves pulp detective novels and reminds him of his highschool-love and Perry van Shrike (Val Kilmer), a gay private investigator who shall prepare him for his role.
When Harmony asks for his help to investigate the alleged suicide of her sister, he pretends to be a real detective, learns that she actually is his lost dream girl from high school (who has slept with every boy there except of him), and gets involved in another case of murder together with ‘Gay Perry’.
Just like in the pulp novels Harmony loves so much there are two absurdly complicated crimes who seem to be entangled somehow. Harry and Parry must overcome many obstacles and solve a lot of puzzles on their quest for the truth – identity confusion, child abuse, torture, traps, false evidence planted by sinister henchmen, lost body parts and an increasing body count.
Shane Black, the writer of LETHAL WEAPON, THE LAST BOY SCOUT, LAST ACTION HERO, and THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT is back in business after a long pause, directs his own script and delivers a smart genre-mix of film-noir, action and comedy with some memorable comic scenes and just one weakness – it’s a bit too smart for it’s own good – and with great performances from two actors known as ‘difficult’ (Kilmer, Downey Jr.) .
We are deep in film-noir land plot-wise, and when the ingredients remind you of CHINATOWN with Jack Nicholson, that’s not by accident. But the obvious plot – who killed the lady? – is not the point. It’s an actor’s movie, and it’s a pleasure to watch Robert Downey Jr. (finally back) as the dull, utterly useless thief with a golden heart. Grammars, probability calcus and law-abiding may not be his strong sides, but he’s always ready to protect the honor of a lady in the rotten society of LA – or her life. Add those big brown eyes and you can’t help loving his Harry.
Val Kilmer, the gay detective, ironically the ‘straight guy’ in this movie, is his perfect counterpart and showcases his comedian talent.
Michelle Monaghan is absolutely perfect as wannabe actress Harmony, a small-town girl from Indiana with a dark secret from her childhood that drove her to LA on a quest for fame. Her looks and outfits are crying out loud ‘Bimbo!’ – but she ain’t. Harmony may have lost her innocence long ago, and she’s haunted by her childhood experiences, but she’s definitly not a bimbo – she’s smarter than you think, and she can turn into an action heroine if required. And this being a Shane Black-movie, it’s timed around christmas – which is the perfect excuse to show her in a skimpy Santa Claus dress