Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey, Jr.) is a petty thief who is mistaken for an actor and later mistaken for a private eye. Harry is teamed with private eye Gay Perry (Val Kilmer) to learn the ins and outs of the detective trade. On a stakeout, Harry and Perry stumble across the body of a murdered heiress and get pulled into the case. Meanwhile, Harry’s childhood sweetheart Harmony Lane (Michelle Monaghan) thinks Harry is a real private eye and hires him to look into the death of her little sister. As with all classic noirs, the two cases eventually become one.
And there are a lot of different styles of humor used in this movie - black, slapstick, wordplay, you name it. One thing I really dug about this movie was the use of Raymond Chandler titles as chapter titles. For those with writerly aspirations, there are a couple moments that stand out. For example, this scene that takes place between Harry and Harmony in a bar:
Harry: Umm, clearly I'm interrupting. I feel badly. Let me... What are you drinking?
Harry: Bad? Sorry... feel...?
Harmony: You feel bad.
Harmony: Badly is an adverb. So to say you feel badly would be saying that the mechanism which allows you to feel is broken.
There’s a funny followup a few minutes later where Harry tries to correct Perry’s use of the word “badly” and Perry shuts him down.
Also is this scene where Harry and Perry turn the tables on a gunman:
Gay Perry: I want you to picture a bullet inside your head right now. Can you do that for me?
Gunman: F--- you. Anyway, that's ambiguous.
Gay Perry: Ambiguous. No, no, I don't think so.
Harry: No, I think what he means is that when you say "Picture it inside your head" okay is that that a bullet will be inside your head. Or picture it in your head.
I’d seen this movie on several “overlooked gems of the decade” list and thought I’d give it a try. I’m glad that I did. The performances by the three lead actors were great. The storyline was classic noir and the humor was actually funny. Oddly enough, someone blogged about this movie at Big Hollywood on Saturday – the day I watched it for the first time.