Notable for having been the first screenwriter in history to sell a script for seven figures, Shane Black is known for having a lot of similar themes in his scripts, from kidnapping plots to titles that start with the letter “L.” My favorite of them all, though, is his tendency to set his films during the holiday season. Out of the seven screenplays that Black has written, four of them are set during the season in which kids go to sleep anxiously awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus: Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, The Long Kiss Goodnight and, my personal favorite, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Filled with explosions, guns, violence, cursing and all varieties of mayhem, the plots of Black’s films may not seem like essential holiday viewing, but behind each one is a message so worthy of Christmas that it would make Tiny Tim shit out some tinsel, a candy cane and one of those stars you put on top of the tree.
At the start of Lethal Weapon, Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) don’t exact get along too well. In fact, there’s a pretty significant scene towards the opening of the film where Murtaugh holds a gun under Riggs’ throat just to make sure that if Riggs fires it will be sure to kill him. When faced with a common struggle and given a joint goal, the two police officers teach each other tolerance and the value of life, but most importantly, they learn the value of partnership.
Unlike Roger Murtaugh, who is a respected member of his own household, Joe Hallenbeck (Bruce Willis) of The Last Boy Scout is a train-wreck. His wife is cheating on him with his best friend and his daughter, Darian (Danielle Harris), is a smart-mouth brat who doesn’t cherish her father’s as much as she treat him like dog shit. But when a serious case gets thrown his way and he manages to uncover a massive conspiracy, Joe proves to his daughter that not only can he be respected as a person, but as a father as well. It’s family values, Shane Black style.
Then there’s Charlene Elizabeth Baltimore (Geena Davis) of The Long Kiss Goodnight. But who exactly is she? According to her loving family in the small town of Honesdale, Pennsylvania, she’s Samantha Caine, mother and schoolteacher. To the world of international spies, assassins and terrorists, she’s better known as Charly. Just as The Ghost of Christmas Past took Ebenezer Scrooge back to his forgotten childhood, so must Charly become the woman she once was to look back, understand who she really is, and make peace with it in order to live a happy life and have a merry Christmas.
Finally we arrive at Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.) in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. As funny and witty as he may be, Harry is probably the biggest lowlife in this entire article. He’s a loser without potential who steals stuff to get by. But this is a Christmas story, and Christmas stories are about redemption and making up for past mistakes. Kicking off with a case of mistaken identity, he discovers his hidden talents, reconnects with a former flame and finds himself on the right side of the law for the first time in years. It’s a Christmas miracle.
But do you know what’s even better than the value of friendship, family values, making peace with yourself and finding redemption for past sins on Christmas? A psychotic brawl in your best friend’s front yard, a gunfight at a football stadium, an exploding tanker truck on the US/Canada border and shooting at the bad guys with a small revolver you keep by your balls. Since getting his first script produced in 1987 at the age of only 26, Shane Black has written four of the most badass-while-moral-filled Christmas movies of all time. There’s only so many times that you can hear George Bailey say Merry Christmas or watch Ralphie Parker ask for a Red Ryder BB Gun. This year, spike the proceedings with a four pack of awesome and make Shane Black movies your holiday cinema of choice.
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NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.