Thursday, February 10, 2011

Review: "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" is Really Good Good

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 141 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
Running time: 103 minutes (1 hour, 43 minutes)
MPAA – R for language, violence, and sexuality/nudity
DIRECTOR: Shane Black
WRITER: Shane Black; from a screen story by Shane Black (based upon the novel, Bodies are Where You Find Them by Brett Halliday)
PRODUCER: Joel Silver
EDITOR: Jim Page

COMEDY/MYSTERY/CRIME with elements of drama and thriller

Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Val Kilmer, Michelle Monaghan, Corbin Bernsen, Dash Mihok, Larry Miller, Rockmond Dunbar, Shannyn Sossamon, and Angela Lindvall

New York City petty thief, Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey, Jr.) cons his way into an acting audition while running from the police. Before long he’s whisked away to Los Angeles for an even more important audition, this time for a part in a big movie. Harry finds an authentic acting coach in L.A. detective, Perry Van Shrike (Val Kilmer) or "Gay Perry," to help him prepare for his audition. The bright lights of Hollywood pale, however, when Harry, Perry, and Harry’s high school dream girl, Harmony Faith Lane (Michelle Monaghan), find themselves thrust into a murder mystery – one with an increasingly high body count.

Shane Black’s calling card is that he is the screenwriter who created Lethal Weapon, but his name may also be slightly notorious with his connection to Hollywood budget excesses, especially as he once received a then-record $1.75 million for The Last Boy Scout script. He didn’t create the buddy picture, an action sub-genre that remains popular but really ruled in the 1980’s and early 1990’s (one could say that the buddy-cop flick came to life with 48 Hours). Still, Black’s Lethal Weapon screenplay defined the buddy action flick, and Black became one of the most influential writers of action flicks.

Perhaps, we can view Black’s directorial debut, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, as a send-up of the genre he, more than any other writer, helped send into the stratosphere of big-time movie making. Almost a movie within a movie, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang seems like a satire of the buddy flick. Self-referential to the point of being meta-fiction, the narrator, Robert Downey, Jr.’s Harry Lockhart, never breaks the fourth wall, but he knows he has an audience.

With all the twists, turns, deceptions, betrayal, and romance in its plot, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a clever P. I. (private investigator or private eye) farce set in the glamour weird side of Los Angeles – think rich people and Hollywood types. Many of the characters are on the edge of Tinseltown – on the outside looking in. This movie is like Get Shorty, but it’s filtered through Shane Black’s penchant for L.A. crime stories – cops and detectives working a sort of modern day Film-Noir City of Angels – a kind of neo-Noir. This is also like The Last Boy Scout, without the big budget action sequences, but more outlandish and eccentric.

Watching this film, one has to wonder why it works. Robert Downey, Jr. seems slightly miscast, but he’s such a fine actor that he makes this part his own. Val Kilmer is quite good in a part that seems a bit short for what both the character and actor can bring to the film. Michelle Monaghan also seems miscast, but she has excellent comic sensibilities and over the long haul of the picture makes a very good, if not perfect, fit.

For all the style and ambience Black and his cast bring to this movie, what ultimately makes Kiss Kiss Bang Bang an exceptional film is how shrewdly written it is. Black has astutely filled his script with the kind of off-the-wall dialogue, situations, and scenes that hooks an audience ever deeper into the film, very similar to what Quentin Tarantino did in Pulp Fiction. It’s a cunning move that both keeps an audience with a short attention span engaged while putting a nimble move on the detective genre that makes even the jaded sit up and take notice. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it is the droll comedy of 2005. It is also one of the most inventive comic turns on the detective flick (that doesn’t have to rely on parody) in decades.

8 of 10

Friday, June 30, 2006


No comments:

Post a Comment