Through nearly 30 years as a screenwriter and occasional director of wisecracking, action-packed fare, including this week’s The Nice Guys, Shane Black has cultivated and nurtured a few standard motifs. The man likes his explosions and his helicopters, as one might expect of the scribe behind such movies as Lethal Weapon, The Long Kiss Goodnight, The Last Boy Scout, and The Last Action Hero. (Notice any other coincidences there?) But there are other, less intuitive themes in the filmography of the wunderkind turned comeback kid as well. Children’s drawings and television sets pop up frequently in his films, for instance, and at least five of his movies, including Iron Man 3, are set at Christmastime. That last little quirk accounts for the title of “Merry Christmas - A Shane Black Tribute,” a breathless, high-octane new supercut assembled by New Orleans-based filmmaker Josh Stephenson.
Here, in one montage running less than three minutes, is a career’s worth of testosterone-fueled ridiculousness and awesomeness, featuring the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Mel Gibson, and Robert Downey, Jr. Stephenson’s own description of the video doubles as a neat summary of almost every movie Black has touched since the Reagan years: “A pair of guys battle to uncover a plot that may or may not involve television sets, Christmas, helicopters, being underwater, police parking garages, suicide, and children’s drawings among other things.” One thing that has long defined Black’s career is a self-aware approach to action movie tropes. His movies, at their best, both evoke and lovingly parody the conventions of the genre. Black’s style, so rooted in the sensibilities of the 1980s, fell out of favor for a while in the 1990s. Luckily for him, audiences came back around to the kinds of stories he wants to tell.