Whatever happened to Val Kilmer? In the 80s he was the dreamboat, all American looking alpha who stole every scene he shared with Tom Cruise in Top Gun. In the 90s he had a huge profile, lead role that I remember being highly acclaimed in Oliver Stone’s The Doors. Also in the 90s he made a pretty shit Batman movie. But he didn’t make the shitty Batman movie of the 90s. In the new millennium he’s had more than one role that should have been his comeback, but it just didn’t seem to stick. Roles in movies like Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang and Wonderland.
In Wonderland, Kilmer plays real life figure, and massive ding dong owner, John Holmes. After breaking out in the 70s as the first real porn star, Holmes hit the 80s as a burnt out crack head, mooching off various drug dealers around LA, dragging his young girlfriend, Dawn (Kate Bosworth) down with him. When the home of one of his regular dealers his found filled with dead bodies after a brutal massacre, Holmes is earmarked as a probable suspect.
This is where Wonderland goes all Rashomon, with the story of the murders, and everything that (possibly) lead up to them, told from various perspectives, with each narrator having their own reasons and motives for being completely unreliable. The movie lets us in on the few definites early on. The victims were definitely killed in retaliation for robbing a rival dealer, and Holmes definitely helped setup that robbery.
But even with those seemingly major aspects of the story locked down, Wonderland still finds plenty of ways to throw curve balls, mix things up and hit you with big reveals, all along the way. It also manages to paint Holmes as a despicable and undisputed loser from the first second he appears on screen, yet you kind of sympathise with him, even at his lowest acts of selfish prickery.
While this 100% Kilmer’s movie, the supporting cast all more than hold their own. Bosworth gives her character the perfect combination of wide eyed innocence and seen it all cynicism. Lisa Kudro is the perfect person to call Holmes on his shit as his semi-estranged, yet still kind of devoted wife, Sharon. And the dealers who live on the titular Wonderland Boulevard are the kind of ensemble that makes me wish those characters had their own movie. Played by Tim Blake Nelson, Dylan McDermott and Josh Lucas, with a little assist from Janeane Garofalo, everything that happens when Holmes is with these characters are the best parts of Wonderland.
Whatever happened to Val Kilmer? Movies like Wonderland make me realise that’s a question that more people should be asking. Because the more it gets asked, the more likely it is he’ll score that comeback role he deserves. According to Wonderland, John Holmes was terrible, terrible person who had little regard for the damage he did to other people to get his own way. Kilmer makes you see that, believe that and hate that, while also delivering charismatic and undeniably likeable performance.