Val Kilmer has long been one of Hollywood's most talented, versatile actors. He has enlivened genre fare like Tombstone and Top Gun. He has shown himself to be a gifted comic actor in Top Secret!, Real Genius, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. He has also delivered interesting performances in indie films like The Salton Sea and Wonderland. But he's also been plagued by his share of duds and a reputation as difficult to work with. In Ting Poo and Leo Scott's documentary Val, Kilmer's fans will find plenty to appreciate, even if the film sometimes feels a bit too soft.
Much of the movie is footage Kilmer himself shot over the years (he was a video camera enthusiast going back to the early 80s). There's a casual intimacy to the footage that's appealing. The film is narrated by Kilmer's son Jack, reading Kilmer's reflections to the audience. This is necessary because Kilmer's voice has been irreparably damaged after a battle with throat cancer. When Val speaks in his own voice, the film has to use subtitles for the audience to understand him. The cancer battle is far from Kilmer's only heartbreak; his beloved brother Wesley drowned as a teenager after suffering an epileptic fit in a jacuzzi.
But there are times when it seems like it might be helpful to get outside perspectives on Kilmer. There's only so much you can learn about a person when you're listening to them tell their own story. However, what's here is still compelling enough that Val is a worthwhile watch for Kilmer fans.
Val opened at the Prytania Canal Place on July 23 and will debut on Amazon Prime on August 6.
*** stars (out of four)