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Netflix this underseen gem and you'll long for the days when studios would spend big bucks on a profane, R-rated action thriller that repeatedly puts a child in jeopardy. (Yvonne Zima, who played Davis's eight-year-old moppet, is now a 24-year-old beauty; IMDB lists her among Iron Man 3's cast.) Crisply shot by Renny Harlin, fresh off the implosion of his other would-be blockbuster with then-wife Davis, Cutthroat Island, the flick more than delivers the trashy goods. Jackson appears to enjoy himself way more in this movie than in any of his later appearances as Nick Fury, perhaps because the array of plaid trousers, turtlenecks, and golf caps he sports seems to have come from his actual closet.

The villains are American spooks aiming to stage--that is, commit--a terror attack to justify a funding boost. "I've no idea how to fake killing 4,000 people, so we're just going to have to do it for real," big-bad Patrick Malahide explains. "They'll blame it on the Muslims, naturally." 1996, people.

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2005)

Last Action Hero.
Last Action Hero.

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Also read our Iron Man 3 review.

Iron Man 3
Directed by Shane Black
Walt Disney Pictures
Opens May 3

Come back, Shane! We've missed you! Black's old pal and champion Joel Silver got Warner Bros. to pony up the $15 million he needed for his directorial debut, a brilliantly funny and self-aware caper thriller/Hollywood satire with yet another inspired pairing of leads: Robert Downey Jr., three years pre-Iron Man, as a petty thief who stumbles into a movie audition, and a top-of-his-game Val Kilmer as a private eye named Gay Perry. Heartbreaker Michelle Monaghan is in the mix, too, as a childhood pal of Downey Jr.'s now in Hollywood watching the last flickers of her dreams of stardom fade.

Black keeps the convoluted mystery almost clear, his dialogue has never been sharper, and there's a playful quality to the set pieces that remind us, deep into the high-Bay epoch of incoherent action filmmaking, that action scenes are supposed to wake us up, not wear us out. Best of all, in his third film to feature a private detective, Black finally goes the first-person narration route. The way Downey Jr. bites into these lines will make you wonder why it took him and Black eight years to make another film together.

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