Shane Black is one of the most successful and popular screenwriters of the last 25 years. Back in the late Eighties and early Nineties, Black was also one of the best paid screenwriters in Hollywood, scoring the biggest pay cheques for spec scripts in 1991 for The Last Boy Scout ($1.75m) and 1996 for The Long Kiss Goodnight ($4m). Then, at the height of his fame and box office draw, he vanished.
Lesser screenwriters would have milked the Hollywood system for all it’s worth and kept creating mediocre re-treads of the same work, but Shane Black was stung by the criticism he received for getting such big pay cheques. But what was he supposed to do, hand them back?
After Lethal Weapon came out and took the buddy-cop action movie into the mainstream, Black was expected to jump on the franchise bandwagon. But he never did, and a number of his screenplays afterwards were butchered by studios to be more in keeping with the more generic Hollywood actioner. But even when they were tinkered with, that Black magic shone through.
After Lethal Weapon 4 fizzled out, the one Shane Black-started franchise was done and dusted. But there could have been a lot more. Let’s take a look at four potential Shane Black franchises that never happened – but should have:
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Sometimes a film just can’t catch a break! With one of the funniest, fastest and freshest screenplays ever grace the page, Shane Black’s 2005 directorial debut was also his big comeback. After 9 years in the wilderness following the disappointment of The Long Kiss Goodnight (that’s box office disappointment, not the film, which is great), the comeback of Shane Black was met with little excitement. Hollywood forgets.
The film, however, is a masterpiece. Total Film gave it 5 stars, calling it a classic. It also gave us the first sign that Robert Downey Jr. was back from the brink and punching above his weight. Jon Favreau has publicly stated that it was Kiss Kiss that helped him convince Marvel that Downey was right for the role of Tony Stark in Iron Man. He’s now the biggest movie star in the world, and Shane Black is directing him again in Iron Man 3. Funny how things work out.
Kiss Kiss bombed at the box office, but it gave the world a classic. That’s what it’s all about, right? If it had made a stupid amount of money, there were definitely sequels in it. LA noir, crossed with action, buddy private eyes, cute girls and gangsters: What’s not to like? It ticked all of the Shane Black boxes in permanent ink and left us all wanting more. Shame it wasn’t to be.
The Last Boy Scout
Shane Black has often said that he thought 1991’s The Last Boy Scout would’ve made more sense as a movie franchise than the one he started, Lethal Weapon. It’s hard not to agree. Bruce Willis is the former US Secret Service agent-turned-Private Eye, smelling of stale alcohol and sleeping in his car. He still hits hard and wise cracks like Raymond Chandler on coke though, and that’s what makes the film work so well. Damon Wayans plays disgraced football player Jimmy Dix, who gets involved with Willis’ Joe Hallenbeck and becomes his partner over the course of the film.
The film ends with Willis offering Dix the job as his partner as they walk down the street. Dix takes the job, but the next episode never came. Movie fans missed out on a great sequel.
The Monster Squad
1987’s The Monster Squad could quite easily be part of the best double bill in the history of ensemble films for kids (if that is even a genre), with the second film being The Goonies. With so much watered down, generic kids films out there, people often forget that kids are a pain in the backside! They swear, they’re selfish and they get into trouble! That is something that neither Black’s The Monster Squad or The Goonies forget. Both films are full of well written child characters who earn the audiences love instead of being cute for the cameras.
The Monster Squad came out the same year as Lethal Weapon, and although they are completely different films, they both share classic Shane Black-isms: Witty dialogue, one-liners, action set pieces and imaginative death scenes for the bad guys. You can still tell it’s a Shane Black film, regardless of the genre.
With so many monsters out there in the world, The Monster Squad could quite easily have had a sequel. But poor box office put paid to any chance of that, something of a theme in Black’s works. But at the end of the day, we should be happy to have one film in a Shane Black series. That’s all we really need, as they all benefit from repeated viewings.