When I noticed this was on sale for blu-ray, I had just recently purchased a new player at the time, and I had also started going through a Robert Downey Jr. phase. I checked out the trailer and found it hilarious and started contemplating if I should buy this or not. Of course I did, hence the review. I don't really get off on these dark, quirky, comedies. I find them too dry and personally, I need some slapstick or characters that are exaggerated to hit my giggle-spot. I decided to take the blind buy. But, I wasn't sure if it was going to be, good good or bad bad.
Harry Lockett (Robert Downey Jr.) is invited to a Hollywood party, after accidentally auditioning for an acting role, by outrunning the cops from robbing a store (are you with me so far?). He is introduced to a private eye named Gay Perry (Val Kilmer) and is suggested to participate in an investigation to train him for his character role. Harry, also meets an aspiring actress - Harmony Faith Lane (Michelle Monaghan), and finds out that she was his crush from back home. After an incident involving the murder, of Harmony's sister. She goes to Harry for help, because he told her that he's actually a detective. The two different stories that Harry gets involved in, begin to intertwine with each other. And, he finds out, that this is turning into one of those detective novels, that Harmony used to read as a child.
This little number, was written and directed by Shane Black (creator of Lethal Weapon). His writing for dialogue is fantastic. The actual plot - not so much. People who enjoy the personality of Robert Downey Jr. will be glad to see him play is usual affable self. The two supporting actors (Val & Michelle) also do a great job for carrying the movie. And, are great with feedback on playing off with Robert's character.
Harry's narration parodies itself and satires all those other noir-type films. Having the storytelling get screwed up and making mistakes which is pretty funny to listen to. For movie-lovers, it's a fresh and original twist to this format. Many of the jokes are sarcastic. I couldn't help but laugh out loud, from the sentences coming out of these character's mouths. The duo of Downey and Kilmer is a nice paring. It's a shame they aren't on screen together as much as they should.
The cinematography is quite chic and slick. From the set pieces, like the bars, restaurant, hotel rooms, homes, and streets. Which all look like they were decorated from Ikea products. The opening credits, start with an interesting pop-art animation. Along with some lounging, jazz music. Filling the air with the sounds of horns, bongos, bassoons, snares, and whatever is played in jazz. Which really defined the spirit throughout the film.
Oh yeah, there's some curse words and nudity that pop-up the odd times. The humour is a bit more mature anyways. So kids would find this a drag. It seems like a more sophisticated piece of cinema. Especially, for a comedy.
It's main weakness, is it's plot. Thing get dropped. It's not explained clearly and it doesn't really care where it's going. I was willing to watch it, just to enjoy the performances out of the actors. And, that's what I got. So, I can't complain. The imagery is very pleasing. Everything else, was sort of... flimsy.
I found it cleverly funny at times and then I would drop out again. Sort of like re-apply a "post-it" that keeps falling off. It swings back and fourth like a pendulum between my type of humour and that quirkiness that I don't really get. Well... don't like. It always felt like it was very close to winning me over. But, it just never pulled me over the line of loving it. I never felt so neutral towards both sides. I really like it, but at the same time I don't think it's all that great. It's sort of strange. I suppose it just cancels each other out. And, I can say it's a "decent movie".
I will say it is one of those black comedies. And, that if you don't like the taste of that flavour. Then there's no rush to go out and see this. I heard someone comment this as, similar to "The Big Lebowski". Yeah, I can see that. So, if you know what style of humour you get a kick out of, than I think you've already made your decision.
The story is not great, but it makes up for it in originality and chuckles. As someone who has a different taste, besides black comedies. This one I found is more welcoming than most. It is a good flick. If you were considering on buying this, it wouldn't be a loss. I would advice, renting it or catching it on the tube first, then decide if it's your bag.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a film about a thief who accidentally wanders into an audition. He blubs his heart out about getting his partner in crime killed which leads to the producer's believing him to be method acting. He subsequently gets the lead role. He's flown to Hollywood and then gets mixed up in a kidnapping which he becomes the target.
Robert Downey Jr plays the protagonist and the narrator, battering down the Fourth Wall. He is brilliant. A truly wonderful actor who I personally believe gets placed in far too many idiotic roles; he's a wonderful person to watch on screen.
Val 'usually wooden' Kilmer is strange as a gay private investigator, but it works unbelievably well and has the funniest line in the film involving a plant.
This film plays on Brechtian tendencies of where the viewer belongs in relation to the story. The main narrator directly talks to the viewer explaining parts and offering opinion - much like the chorus of Greek tragedy. The chorus in this also has control of what can be seen on screen, at one point telling actors to move out the way so we can get a shot of the narrator's younger self.
The film embodies elements of film noir infused with tongue-in-cheek tendencies. The title is a play of an Italian poster for a Bond film and one of the focuses is on a pop-thriller writer.
A highly recommended watch that has one of the greatest Russian Roulette scenes ever created.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is one of those films where the main character will occasionally turn to directly to the audience to provide some narration, this is done at the start of the film as small tme thief Harry Lockhart turns to the audience to explain how he came to be standing poolside at a swanky Hollywood party when a few days earlier he was robbing a toy shop for a xmas present in New York and watching his crime partner get killed and himself taking a bullet. Now he is on the verge of starting an acting career through a fortunate chain of events.
The studio that he is to work with pairs him up with a private investigator called Gay Perry in order to prepare him for his acting role with some hands on experience, however soon the pair are knee deep in trouble as they witness a murder and then are subjected to a man hunt by the killers.
This is a quirky and very funny gangster movie which has a lot of dark humour in it and a great plot with lots of twists. It is also a bit of a buddy movie in the way the ratrange relationship develops between Harry who is played by Robert Downey Jnr and Perry who is played by Val Kilmer.
Kilmer is brilliant as the camp street smart hard case and the two actors work together really well. Michelle Monaghan plays Harmony a former girlfriend of Harry's who is drawn back into his life..
I really did enjoy this film, it is well worth seeing if you get teh chance as it is rather funny and great entertainment.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a stylish gangster movie where the prescence of the viewer is acknowledged throughout as the main character Harry Lockhart, a small time thief, talks directly to the viewer as narrator, based in New York he is seen at the start of the film robbing a toy shop at night to get xmas presents to order when the crime goes wrong and his partner gets killed and he is wounded by a member of the public, fleeing the police he stumbles in to an audition and is mistaken for an actor, reading the script his pain and fear kick in and he gets hired, next thing he is in Hollywood at a swank party.
He is teamed up with a private eye by the studio called Gay Perry whose job it is to prepare him for his role as a PI however while on a stakeout they get involved in a murder and soon they have the police, hoodlums and an ex girlfriend called Harmony to deal with.
This is a funny film however the comedy is rather dark and it does not set out to be a comedy, instead it is a stylish film where the hero Harry is a bit of a screw up however in Hollywood he is surrounded by plenty of other screw ups and soon the complicated plot in this film begins to unravel.
There are some killer lines in this film and they are delivered with panache by a quality cast. Val Kilmer is brilliant as Gay Perry, a camp street smart heard case it is a superb performance and the interaction between him and Robert Downey Jnr as Harry are some of the best scenes in the film. Harmony is played by Michelle Monaghan and she is also very good in this film.
This is a great film that will appeal to both genders, both me and the bf enjoy this film and it is well worth seeing as the dialogue is superb.
At an alarmingly frequent rate we see seasoned actor's careers take a nose dive. And it isn't just a temporary blip, it is often decades long and almost every one of their films in this period is a prize winning turkey. Thank goodness for resurrection films.
Not following me? Take the classic example of John Travolta. Early career highlights include Grease, Saturday Night Fever. And then for a period of 16 or so years - what did he do of any merit? Staying Alive? Give me a break (ok so that was more Sly Stallone, the director at fault). Look who's talking 1, 2 or 3? Yeah my point exactly. By the early 90's he is probably considering panto or an appearance Noels House Party as ways to make ends meet. Then... then along comes a film, in this case Pulp Fiction which resurrects his career. Suddenly he is hot property again, he can write his own paychecks, take his pick of the screenplays and the world is once again his oyster and once again at his feet. Of course what he decides to do with this status is down to him and if he wants to waste it on films like Broken Arrow, maybe it wasn't a cause worth saving.
So resurrection films. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was one of those. Where had Val Kilmer been since Top Gun? He was the Ice Man. He wore those mirrored aviators marvellously. He lived up to his name of being ice cool and yet he disappeared into obscurity. ( I exclude the cameo in True Romance. As lets face it - you didn't even get to see his face). Batman Forever was mediocre despite its top cast, Alexander was pretty pony, The Saint was ok but not spectaculor. Maybe it was Top Gun's final "you can be my wingman" cheesy dialogue - it would knock most people's career. Actually I've just thought he was in Heat. Which was pretty decent. I think I may have blown my theory. Can we ignore that one? For the purposes of the next paragraph and this review, I'm going to ignore it.
Thank goodness for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. In my opinion Val Kilmer stole the show with his wit, sarcasm and way of ruling the events of the film. And what a way to invent yourself: from Ice Man, the studly & buffed, flawless fighter naval pilot to homosexual, overweight private investigator, who spends a large portion of the film in a tracksuit. <Chandler Bing voice on> The 2 roles couldn't BE any more opposite <Chandler Bing voice off>.What a way to reinvent yourself and avoid pigeon holing ones self. Pierce Brosnan managed it less successfully with his reinvention from Bond to the Matador.
Robert Downey Junior also benefitted from a resurrection. I know after SNL he did Air America (loved that film) and then Ali McBeal, but then he also did Gothika and Bowfinger. I guess he had all the drink drug problems... But anyway he is back and gives a brilliant performance as the wrong guy in the right place (or vice versa) (or a combination of the 2) and comes a close second in terms of performance. The interaction between him and Val Kilmer is hilarious. The Russian Roulette scene at the end has to be one of the funniest moments in film that I have ever seen.
It's about here in a review that one should then outline the plot. I have read reviews which detail the plot in excruciating detail - giving away spoilers galore. Is that the point of a review? Should the review be for people who have seen it and can share your interpretation of events - in which case it is not a necessity as they, too have seen the film and know what happens. Or is the review for the person who hasn't seen it and is thinking about watching it or buying it? In which case they only need to be enticed / not know a transcript of the movie? I'll stick with my interpretation of the point: a short synopsis to entice the non see-er but not bore the have seen-er.
Robert Downey Junior plays Harry, a child magician turned petty thief who unwittingly ends up falling accidently into the world of Hollywood acting. His path crosses with Val Kilmer (Gay Perry); a private detective giving detective coaching lessons, and his childhood not-quite-girlfriend, Harmony (Michelle Monaghon) who is one of Hollywood's many failed actresses. The story cranks up as all 3 become involved in solving a murder case, which has rotten links throughout Hollywood circles.
The film is an action-comedy; but has multiple levels of comedy: black comedy throughout, moments of slapstick comedy, moments of tongue in cheek humour, it is very cleverly done. he presentation of the movie is also quite unique, as it is narrated by Robert Downey Junior, and he makes no subtlety of narrating; even pausing the film to offer background narration, cursing himself on his narration techniques. It is bizarre, but it works and is very effective.
Definatly in my top 10 films. It might even sneak into the top 5, depending on how I feel. Watch it, if for no other reason to witness Val Kilmer's transformation from Ice Man to Gay Perry. Genius
note: also appears in part on Flixster and The Student Room
Shane Black was very famous in the late 1980s for bringing the buddy cop film into prominence with his brilliant film series Lethal Weapon. He held create a series of tropes that would be copied and imitated many times since, and then in the 1990s he used this once again for the underrated cult buddy comedy The Last Boy Scout, starring Bruce Willis and Damon Wayans. In 2005, he finally returned to screens with Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, a very different sort of cop crime thriller from those he's made before. While still imbued with a lot of laughs, it's a more witty, postmodern romp that deals with more metaphysical, wall-breaking themes and adheres to formula far less than his previous efforts.
The film revolves around Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey, Jr.), a small time criminal who is on the run from the cops following a failed robbery, and runs into a movie audition, where his recounting of the incident is presumed to be amazing acting, and so they quickly hire him and send him to meet private investigator "Gay" Perry van Shrike (Val Kilmer, who seems to be getting fatter and better in every film he's in). In the Hollywood party scene, he also meets Harmony Lane (Michelle Monaghan), a former childhood friend. However, he has to huggle trying to get with her with a strange murder mystery that seems to be unfolding, which leads back to him and those around him.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a slick, and highly intelligent, twisty thriller that gets by on Downey Jr's unmistakable charm if not for the clever script. The breaking of the fourth wall is often irritating, yet in this instance it is utterly arresting.
Occasionally a film comes along which dares to be different, which makes it very difficult to categorise or review. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is that film.
Essentially, it's a murder-mystery-conspiracy-buddy-cop-comedy-satire (see what I mean?) It sees petty criminal Harry Lockhart accidentally become an actor, and then equally accidentally stumble into the middle of a real life murder case.
On first description, that sounds like pretty much any generic Hollywood murder film, but this one comes with an important twist: it doesn't take itself in the slightest bit seriously, plays everything for laughs and is prepared to break every rule going if it makes the film better.
See, now I've got you confused again. I'll bet you've got something like Naked Gun in mind - all spoofs, skits and silliness. Nothing could be further from the truth, because whilst it is true that there is plenty of humour in KKBB, it's a sly, knowing humour, rather than over-the-top insanity. Perhaps the closest comparison is Lethal Weapon... which is no surprise, since both were written by Shane Black.
KKBB is definitely a film which will divide audiences. It takes traditional Hollywood storylines and pokes fun at them, satirising them and sending them up, whilst (mostly) retaining the structure of a traditional film. Anyone who has ever seen a cop-buddy movie or a murder-mystery will instantly feel at home with the characters, the setting and the slightly labyrinthine plot. Yet, anyone expecting the film to conform to standard genre fare will be disappointed.
True, the actual plot behind KKBB is not that much to write about. Take out a few fairly obvious twists, and it's rather insubstantial. Anyone anticipating an action film will be very disappointed - there are a few gunshots and that's about it. On the other hand, anyone who wants to be royally entertained by something smart (but not clever-clever) and funny (but not silly) should give KKBB a go.
Like an attention-deficient three year old after twelve bags of blue smarties, KKBB is all over the place, taking a very scatological approach to film-making. In some regards, it doesn't make a great deal of sense. The plot is little more than a convenient excuse for some jibes at Hollywood, the studios and the deluded inhabitants of La La Land. Yet, it is also whip-smart clever. It does hang together and on a basic level provide a satisfying enough murder-mystery, that's not the point of it.
This is a film which is genuinely funny and will have you laughing out loud many, many times. It proves adept at using several every available kind of comedy, taking in wordplay (a discussion on the correct use of adverbs/adjectives), visual gags and even slapstick (dog + fingers=priceless). Importantly, all of these effortlessly flow from the plot and the situations in which the characters find themselves. They never feel forced or artificial and whilst the film fully deserves the description of "a crazy film", it's never crazy for the sake of it. There is always a point to the "craziness" beyond just providing a laugh. The script is carefully crafted and all the elements - plot, humour, sly digs - hold together well.
Yet some will hate it. They will hate its slightly smug, self-referential style. They will hate the way that the lead actors talk to camera, explaining the plot to people as they go along. They will hate Robert Downey Jr's narration which backtracks, loops round on itself and at times is almost a stream of consciousness. You either get it or you don't. If you do, this is the cinematic equivalent of 102 minutes of fresh air, blowing away the cobwebs of too many bland, boring blockbusters. If you don't, it's a pile of smug, self-satisfied garbage. Want my advice? Well tough, cost you're gonna get it anyway. Watch the first 15 minutes. If you don't like that, don't bother with the rest because it's more of the same. If you do, strap yourself in for a treat.
If the plot and humour is strong, so are the cast. Robert Downey Jr. as the narrator is clearly having a great deal of fun sending up both himself and the whole, crazy world of Hollywood film-making. His rat-a-tat delivery of lines has a very natural rhythm, and smart-talking Harry is a brilliant creation. I could have sat and listened to him all night. Downey Jr. oozes charisma and whilst some might feel he sometimes gets a little too close to smarm, I thought it was perfect. Sometimes his delivery is so fast that you can miss out on some of the smart dialogue, but that just gives you an excuse to watch the film again!
More than holding his own is Val Kilmer as the brilliantly named Gay Perry, a real-life detective and Hollywood adviser. Kilmer is having great fun playing against type as a gay character. He has a bit of a reputation for being rather intense, but here he's clearly decided to let his hair down and enjoy himself. His interaction with Downey Jr. is brilliant, the two bouncing off each other, trading insults, getting into scrapes and (yes) gradually coming to grudgingly admire the other. Again, you might be thinking this sounds like every other buddy-cop movie, but KKBB manages to find a new angle, whilst acknowledging genre conventions.
Sensibly, writer/Director Shane Black doesn't try to over-stretch things. Recognising that even the charisma of Downey Jr and his double act with Val Kilmer could become wearing after a while, he wraps things up in an audience-friendly 102 minutes, adhering to the old Hollywood adage: always leave 'em wanting more.
Shane Black took a bit of a gamble with this one. Having dropped out of Hollywood for nearly ten years, this was his comeback piece and he took a huge risk turning in something so different. Why don't you do the same? If you get its scatological approach and slightly different style, your risk will pay off and your payback will be enormous.
Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
Director: Shane Black
Running time: approx 102 minutes
© Copyright SWSt 2009
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a 2005 comedy/thriller written and directed by Shane Black, starring Robert Downey Jr and Val Kilmer.
Harry Lockhart (Downey Jr) is a small time crook who, following a toy store robbery, unknowingly hides out at a film casting session. Harry misinterprets a line reading as being about the death of his partner in crime and wracked with guilt proceeds to impress the studio people with his "acting". Packed off to Hollywood to shadow a private investigator "Gay" Perry Van Shrike (Kilmer) to get some tips for the role he might be playing, Harry meets up again with an old childhood friend, Harmony Faith Lane (Michelle Monaghan). During a seemingly routine tailing job Harry and Perry unwittingly get involved in a murder case. After the suicide of Harmony's sister, Harry begins to suspect the two are linked so the hapless hero cojoles the irritated Perry into helping out. However, the killers know who is after them and things get dangerous for the pair, aided by the feisty Harmony.
Shane Black pretty much invented the violent, wise-cracking buddy movie genre with his screenplay for Lethal Weapon, and treads familiar ground here with his directorial debut. He keeps things fresh by having a hero who, unlike Mel in LW or Bruce Willis in the Last Boy Scout, isn't a macho guy with superior firearms, but an idiot who just muddles his way through most situations. Since Black knows the genre staples so well, he credits the audience with the intelligence that they know them too, and as such ensures that the dialogue has knowing lines such as the correct way to disarm a wouldbe killer in a movie! The film is littered with very funny lines and the plot, while seemingly convoluted, is easy to follow. The characters are all very likable and Monaghan isn't treated like the useless damsel in distress that these films often are guilty of (although Black nearly spoils things towards the end in the regard). Since the characters are all on the margins of Hollywood it also provides Black with the chance to poke fun at desperation of wouldbe starlets, and the fickle nature of fame. Harry regularly breaks the 4th wall to address the audience directly, and in a neat trick the film rewinds when he goes over some information he forgot to provide earlier. It's a very confident film debut as a result and it's a shame that due to the inexplicably poor box office that Black hasn't been given another directing gig yet.
This was another step forward in Downey Jr's rehabilitation back to Hollywood star after all of his personal problems and he's on likable idiot form here, stumbling from one problem to the next somehow managing to use his natural charm to get him out of situations. Kilmer provides proof that despite a reputation for being difficult, he has a lot of acting talent and he obviously enjoys playing with his image here as the openly gay Perry. As mentioned, Monaghan gives a memorable performance as the desperate actress who is feisty enough to push Harry around without coming across as a bitch.
If you haven't seen this film and you like witty, cleverly plotted buddy action films then you will love this, give it a go.
When I watched this film, I was not expecting it to be anything special, in fact I was quite worng. The film has a fantastic cast who all deliver great performances. I thought that there was a lot of on screen chemistry thet characters seem to bond really well with other and it was good to watch. Robert Downey Jr. in particular was brilliant, he begins the film as a thief and becomes tangled up in a whole string of murders. He adds most of the comedy to the film, and I thought his comic timing was genious. The film, though it is very funny, is not primarily a comedy. It is a crime film which I think has a excellent plot. There are plenty of twists and turns but not so much that the film becomes ridiculous. The film is pretty easy viewing and definately worth the watch I would recommend it to everyone.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a stylish film, starring Robert Downey as a thief who gets caught up in a film audition and surprisingly impresses the judges after he's shot his best pal. He's a good guy at heart but has never finished anything and becomes besotted with an old flame when he meets up with her at a Hollywood party. Before you know it, the masquerading actor is pretending to be a private eye and begins to unravel a complicated murder mystery.
There's a lot of action and it's one of those gut-wrenching films where you never know who to trust, despite being set in modern day it has a more old fashioned feel to it - like a stylish and less ridiculous Naked Gun. That's not to say that there aren't funny moments in this film, it manages to cross the genres of crime and black comedy very well to create a funny film as well as one that you feel a genuine need to solve.
The acting is exceptional, particularly from (Robert Downey Jr) and his temporary side-kick in the private eye world Gay Perry (Val Kilmer), GP is a burly character with a dry sense of humour and a bit of a cynical way of looking at things, the two personalities clash and compliment each other to form a great onscreen personality that is well backed up by the damsel in distress Michelle Monaghan and a range of crooks who are out to cause trouble.
I highly recommend giving this a go, with so many twists - you are in for a bumpy but enjoyable ride.
For me, Robert Downey Jr can do very little wrong - and he certainly doesn't disappoint. The surprising thing was just how great pretty much everything else is in this film!
Downey Jr is a small-time thief who manages to get himself hired to act in a Hollywood film while trying to get away from a bungled toy-store burglary. While there private detective 'Gay Perry' (Val Kilmer) is assigned to give him some tips on his role. They manage to get embroiled with murder, kidnap and more murder together with Harry's unrequited childhood love (MIchelle Monaghan), now a struggling actress.
The plot twists are knowingly improbable but it's the fun of the journey along the way and the razor-sharp dialogue that really counts in this film. Directed by Shane Black (who I think is normally only OK/quite good) the whole film is a treat. Performances are all excellent. Downey Jr manages to make us care about his rather pathetic Harry. Kilmer, who I normally can't stand, is a complete revelation as the tough, funny and frequently exasperated Perry.
The plot gets confusing but really that's half the fun - and it repays repeated watching so eventually you'll get what's going on!
I'd never come across or heard of this film before, and I am not entirely sure why. I'm not a great Val Kilmer fan but his performance was one of the funniest I've ever seen. Robert Downey Jr. was brilliant as always, and Shane Black's script had me laughing out loud as well as on the edge of my seat all the way through. Plus Michelle Monaghan delivered a good performance and she is a rather fit young lady too.
Shane Black produced (or directed- It's all a bit hazy) Lethal Weapon, so I anticipated this with high expectations and they were exceeded. Val Kilmer plays a gay cop who is hard as nails as well as rather flambouyant, Downey Jr. plays a petty criminal who accidentally falls into the criminal world and the stunning Ms. Monaghan is the love interest and semi-damsel in distress.
The plot, like any neo-noir, is complicated and full of twists and turns but comes together in the end perfectly. It's a tense thriller and at the same time one of the best comedies I have ever seen. It's stylistic, with it's own unique narration (by Mr. Downey Jr.) cut scenes and a platinum script.
I just wish that more poeple knew about this great little thriller.
The movie Kiss Kiss Bang Bang wears its love of hard boiled detective schlock on its sleeve, poking fun at the lumpen vernacular of the hack imitators of the genre's twin giant totems, Chandler and Hammett, and occupying the territory of neo-noir spoof instead of the more serious terrain of LA Confidential or Chinatown, keeping a violently comic dark edge but tracing its most recent lineage back through various enjoyable movies such as Get Shorty, Adaptation, The Big Lebowski, True Romance, The Long Goodbye, and Lethal Weapon.
The equally excellent Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer bumble their way through a foggy conspiracy of murder and mistaken identity in Hollywood, cracking wise and shooting their way out of the trouble that swirls around feisty femme fatale Harmony Faith Lane (Michelle Monaghan), like the ineptly gay and impotent versions of Riggs and Murtaugh, quarrelling over their bad choice of adverbs. Several of the characters share their love of the series of fictional gumshoe pulp adventures that knowingly informs the plot of the film. The narrator wryly observes "The guy writing the books died. Before he died, the guy who wrote the books said Johnny Gossamer was a joke. He wrote it for the money and it was all bull****. Harmony ignored this, she knew better, I mean who the hell was he, he was just the writer."
Writer/Director Shane Black's personal experience of having his own draft scripts shorn of their gleefully twisted bitter edge in favour of producing more standard action fare in the eighties and nineties sparkles through in the caustic delivery of Downey's many sardonic voiceovers as he wilfully tampers with the editing of this shaggy dog story comeback.
The film shares its title with a collection of essays in which the late critic Pauline Kael bemoaned Hollywood's frequent tendency to deliver nothing more than the most rudimentary schemes of entertainment that lacked the proper emotional punch. Kael had seen an Italian movie poster whose four-word tag translated literally as "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" and she began to wonder whether this perfectly described all that the movie had to offer, further suspecting that the very devices which intrigued viewers sufficiently to be drawn to certain types of guilty pleasure were ultimately the same ploys responsible for leaving audiences feeling short changed.
But here Shane Black takes Jean-Luc Godard's old maxim that all you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun to exuberantly silly lengths and comes up with a triumph, inventively sending up his much loved targets (film noir, 1980's buddy movies) in much the same way that Brian DePalma finally realised the best way to successfully escape his faux-Hitchcock posturing was to inject the plot mechanics of 2002's inspirationally demented thriller, Femme Fatale, with absurd lashings of deadpan humour, and Wes Craven revitalised his career as a horror director with the now familiar post-modern trappings of Scream. The movie also shares a similar attitude and aesthetic with the standout episodes of another Joel Silver production, the sunshine-noir girl-detective television show, Veronica Mars, which has largely avoided world-weary clichés by making clever jokes and revelling in its pop culture heritage.
So it is that instead of earning a sobriquet like "Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" as the uber-macho James Bond was once famously described, Perry Van Shrike, Val Kilmer's homosexual private detective, plies his trade under the moniker Gay Perry, like the world famous city of renowned romantic repute. Whilst the central character, failed magician, petty thief and erstwhile actor Harry Lockhart, has obvious antecedents like Chili Palmer, The Dude, and Charlie Kaufman, who have already subverted the more traditionally anticipated archetypes of Humphrey Bogart's Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade, Robert Downey's considerable appeal, as he frivolously converses with the audience about his madcap adventures with trouble is my business scenarios involving little sisters and ladies in the lake and the simple art of murder, make him a welcome addition to the growing canon of practitioners of surrealist metaphysical mysteries from the pens of screenwriters like Kaufman and the Coens, and literary novelists like Paul Auster, with his New York Trilogy.
Writers such as Richard Price, Dennis Lehane and George Pelecanos have sought to move the genre of crime fiction towards the realm of serious drama, even branching out into television scriptwriting themselves on David Simon and HBO's peerless The Wire, but even their more comic brethren Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiassen (and also now TV's Rob Thomas) have long shared their preference for eschewing conventional schemes of morality and narrative, redefining the landscape and often making anti-heroes of ambiguous lowlifes themselves, whilst James Ellroy has signally ploughed his own dark conspiratorial vision of America's sub-official history from his basement.
It is into these new traditions that the old fashioned detectives have returned, and for all the fine writing of Chandler and Hammett in the past, theirs is a much richer world for it, owing it's real roots to the much murkier moral compass of the writings of the great Jim Thompson in the fifties and sixties.
Harry Lockhart is one of life's nice guys, but he can't ever finish anything that he starts, including school and his marriage. When he meets Harmony Lane in L.A., years after they both attended high school, he finds something that he finally wants to see through to the end. They both bump into each other at the same party in L.A. There's only one question to answer: Why does everybody keep dying?
The start to this movie is terrific and pulls you straight in. You see Harry as a young magician and a young Harmony is his apprentice in a box; about to be sawn in half by a chainsaw. Harmony screams as it goes through and all the adults go crazy! Once the box is opened the little girl retorts, "I'm going to be... an actress!!!" Cut to Pink Panther style opening credits.
So, just how did Harry get to the party?
Harry has become a petty thief, and is on the run when he happens upon a room where there is a screen test for a new detective movie (apparently Colin Farrell is too expensive)! Harry has never acted before, but he nails the audition and they whisk him away to L.A. He's soon supping on the finest champagne, and hobnobbing with all the important people at a poolside party. He has an acerbic wit for a one-liner, such as "You're mouth is a recommended place to put a sock!"
Harmony comes from a small town in Indiana where the motto was; when in doubt, cut up a pig! She is sassy and wicked smart, and into detective novels. Because of these she dreams of getting away to a life on the coast. She soon puts herself on a bus to L.A. There is a scene that sums up the different roads these kids have taken to Hollywood. She accuses Harry of grabbing her tit and her reaction is, "That's life, no biggy!" He was actually getting rid of a huge spider crawling over her whilst asleep, but is offended by her shrugging it off as no big deal. "If someone grabs your tit, that's a biggy" he says. "What kind of people are you hanging out with?" She just expects everyone to do these things as she's become accustomed to that type of treatment. Harry is different; he knows the difference between right and wrong. She needs Harry to help her as she thinks he's a real detective.
Gay Parry is a tough as nails private eye who knows how to dodge a flying glass in a bar, without so much as a flinch! Harry takes a beating at the party, and Parry comes to pick him up. He is assigned to help train up Harry to perfect the detective role. He has a very dry wit and carries a mean 'faggot' gun. The explanation of this is well worth waiting for!
This trio are thrown together from a fictional scenario into a real life murder mystery. It's up to you to determine who's all in on it, as there are twists and double crosses afoot.
Harry Lockhart - Robert Downey Jr
Gay Parry - Val Kilmer
Harmony Faith Lane - Michelle Monaghan
Harlan Dexter - Corbin Bernsen
The interplay between the three main leads is electric. Monaghan is smoking in her best role to date. Her razor-sharp, foul mouthed dialogue is delivered with a vulnerable quality that suits her character to a tee. However, the scenes between Downey Jr and a slightly chubby looking Kilmer are what really make this tick and take it to another level. They play off each other amazingly well. The running banter between the pair is hilarious. Kilmer does not camp up his gay character which is also a refreshing change. He plays against type to remarkable effect.
Warning: This film contains one of the funniest sequences I've ever seen involving a lost body part! I haven't laughed so hard in ages, you may lose a spleen. You will also pick up great tips of exactly what not to do in a crime scene. For example, do not happen upon one when you visit the little boy's room! The death of Protocop is also wickedly cruel. The comedy is best served black in here, which makes it all the more delicious to me. A couple of scenes annoyed me early on when the action is cut and Harry, as the narrator asks us why the scene was even included in the movie. I think I just had to adjust myself to a completely unique narration style that the film presents. Looking back, I am actually grateful for the short pauses, as the action and sharp dialogue are constant and the pace so fast, that it can leave you breathless. I think it was asking us to learn how to be the detective, just as Harry was trying to learn himself.
If you haven't seen a good film since True Romance, this is the one for you! It is the first to be directed by Shane Black. He needs to do more as his direction is watertight - he is also the same man responsible for writing The Lethal Weapon films. I just pray that his next move is to direct a buddy cop movie starring Downey Jr and Kilmer.
I have a feeling that Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a film which I will be able to watch time and time again, and pick up more jokes and clues each time. This was not a major box office success, but I think that through word of mouth, this will become an all time classic. It has so many ingredients needed to make a good film, and is a success on all levels. Romance, murder mystery, black humour, old school film noir, mistaken identity, you name it, this has got the lot.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was based upon the novel, 'Bodies are where you find them', by Brett Halliday.
Rated 15 (some nudity, filthy dialogue and violence)
Running time 99 minutes
DVD is currently available on Amazon at £2.98
Downside - there are no extras on this DVD release
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Harry Lockhart is a thief and lucky man. On a job with his friend, his friend gets shot and Harry is chased by the police, but manages to avoid them and, by some fluke, ends up being interviewed for a part in a film. He impresses the casting people so much that they send him to Los Angeles for a screen test, whereupon he immediately stumbles across a murder. Along with childhood friend, Harmony, and a private detective, Perry, he tries to work out who the murderer is. But will he be able to do so without being killed himself? Or indeed without losing his fingers?
Harry Lockhart is played by Robert Downey Junior. Whereas I know his name very well (who doesn't, with all the bad press), I'm not actually sure I've ever seen him in anything before - certainly I've not seen any of his recent films. It was a nice surprise to find that he is fantastic as Harry Lockhart. Harry is the male equivalent of a tart with a heart - you know he's a bit of a rough diamond, but you can't help liking him. There is something about the twinkle in his eye that I found irresistible. And despite the fact that the plot is a bit weak at times - it has more coincidences in it than an Agatha Christie book - he manages to carry off the role with skill. He has certainly won me over.
Val Kilmer, who plays Perry, is another actor about whom I know very little (no, I've never seen any of the Batman films, nor do I want to). Perry is gay, which makes room for a slew of jokes about homoexuality; however, I didn't find it at all offensive. I thought he was great as Perry. To begin with, I thought he was going to be rather bland, and in fact he may have been was it not for his relationship with Harry. The pair of them work really well together, sparking off each other, and it is a pleasure to watch them. Hmm, maybe I will give Batman Forever a try after all.
Harmony is played by Michelle Monaghan. She looks great and does a pretty good job of the role, although I wasn't exactly bowled over. The emphasis was very much on Harry and Perry though, so that is perhaps not her fault.
I love film noir, which I can best describe as rather gritty, or hardboiled, crime fiction with a dark, murky setting. It often involves a cynical private detective who, like Harry, has a past, but is basically good. Although Kiss Kiss Bang Bang certainly has the cynical Harry, it doesn't particularly have the dark, depressing settings, and although it is gritty, it also has a comedy value that I certainly can't remember from the more traditional film noirs I have seen - The Big Sleep, The Maltese Falcon, Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice. However, I don't think this matters. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a modern film noir and I think it has injected new life into the genre, which can only be a good thing.
I knew that there were some comic moments in the film; what I didn't expect was to laugh out loud on more than one occasion. One of my favourite scenes is when a dog makes off with Harry's severed fingers. Then again, perhaps I just have a sick sense of humour! There was also a lot of humour in the relationship between Harry and Perry, something which I think is as much down to their acting skills as the screenplay.
Another thing that I liked about the film is the way that the story is told. Harry is the narrator of the story, which helps to make it seem that bit more realistic - for example, he is narrating, then remembers something else which involves going back in the story, which the viewer sees as a rewind. This may not be particularly original, but it really added colour to the story for me. A good move on the part of screenwriter and director Shane Black, to my mind at least.
The only (minor) gripe I have about the film is the very beginning. I started and stopped the film twice within the first ten minutes before I finally got round to seeing the whole film, simply because it is quite disjointed and doesn't make that much sense. Had it carried on for longer like that, I probably wouldn't have watched it. Luckily I did.
There is a fair amount of violence in the film, as can be expected with a film that is largely centred around murder, and I think that the guidance rating of 15 is about right.
I really enjoyed this film. I loved the combination of gritty thriller and comedy, and I thoroughly enjoyed the acting, particularly that of Robert Downey Junior. The plot could perhaps have been a bit more realistic, but it entertained me and so I am quite happy to allow for the lack of realism - just how many films are totally realistic anyway? Highly recommended.
The DVD is available from play.com for £5.99
Running time: 103 minutes