Cert: 15 Runtime: 103 mins Director: Shane Black Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Val Kilmer and Michelle Monaghan
Don’t worry, I saw Lord of the Rings. I’m not going to end this 17 times
Who doesn’t love a good dark comedy? Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is one of my favourite Downey Jr. performances by far. Directed by Shane Black the creator of Lethal Weapon you kind of know what you are going to get (He also is the director of Iron Man 3) So what is Kiss Kiss Bang Bang? In Los Angeles, whilst being chased by police officers, thief Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.) finds himself in a movie audition where he is mistaken for a actor, auditioning for a role in a detective film. Harry attends a party where he reunites with childhood friend Harmony Faith Lane (Michelle Monaghan), who is acting in Beer commercials and wants to make it to the big time and act in Hollywood movies and Harry also meets gay private detective Perry Van Shrike (Val Kilmer). When Perry discovers a dead body and Harmony’s sister commits suicide, Perry decides to involve Harry in the investigation and Harry decides to play along and pretend he is a detective. Investigating the case, Harry and Perry become suspicious of the party guests who have all become suspects, as Harry and Perry set out to uncover the murderer’s identity, Harry finds himself falling in love with Harmony.
“Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” is a rollicking, loving satire of pulp detective novels and the noir movies based on them, particularly those set in Hollywood. But the fun and games don’t get in the way of a twisty good story with lots of dead bodies, action and, of course, babes in the woods and femme fatale. Where White’s previous buddy cop scripts threw in jokes between the violence, this one counts up the bodies amidst the jokes.The “Catch Me If You Can,” while the opening narration sets the tone for the satire, self-awarely sending up classics like “D.O.A.,” by making fun of the fact that it’s narrated with rewinds and film stutterings, and then with lurid chapter headings. The references to other movies come fast and furious throughout, from “Chinatown” to “Reservoir Dogs,” as well as the novels of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett and their countless film adaptations, though the digs at Hollywood aren’t quite as scabrous as “L.A. Confidential.” Including scenes from a younger Corbin Bernsen crime movie is used here illustratively to the plot almost as integrally as the old Terence Stamp film in “The Limey.” He certainly does look like a matinée idol gone to see, but then so does Val Kilmer.
A key to making this all original is Robert Downey Jr.’s marvelous comic and earnest turn as a fish out of water as a crook imitating an actor imitating a private investigator, which even recalls what tends to happen to Bob Hope in the “On The Road” movies. He shoots off rapid fire wise-cracking dialogue like an Olympic hurdler and creates a full character’s range of little ticks particularly for unrequited love.It’s an intentional joke that Kilmer plays his straight man as “Gay Perry” who uses his character’s orientation as a clever and amusing twist on the macho-ness of a genre that usually thrives on sexual tensions. Michelle Monaghan spiritedly holds her own between these two pro’s, but if it was supposed to be part of the joke that she is so obviously more the ingénue than Downey’s old high school classmate who is over the hill in Hollywood at 34, that running gag isn’t quite believable here. Maybe it was trying to be commentary on the usual Hollywood casting of younger women with older men.The cinematography beautifully capitalizes on the various L.A. settings of seedy nights and blinding days.Each scene goes off in unexpected turns that are both howlingly funny, yet serious within the typically convoluted plot, though the epilogue gets too silly even as it makes fun of epilogues.