Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Val KIlmer, Michelle Monaghan
Director: Shane Black
Petty thief Harry Lockhart, while evading the police, accidentally auditions for a movie role and soon finds himself attending glamorous parties in L.A. and having lessons in detective work from private investigator Gay Perry. After bumping into his childhood crush, Harry becomes embroiled in a complicated plot involving murder and child abuse in this neo-noir comedy crime movie that places its tongue firmly in its cheek. Check out the trailer below.
Why should I watch it?
After a ten year break from Hollywood and before his success with Iron Man 3, Shane Black wrote and directed this sublime comedy that features some of the wittiest, sharpest dialogue you could find in any movie. Black helped popularise the buddy-cop genre with Lethal Weapon and advances the idea here in a film where the two central characters, Harry and Perry, simply do not like each other. While Riggs and Murtaugh began their relationship with a base of distrust which grew into mutual respect and friendship, Harry and Perry repeatedly disagree, argue, verbally abuse and even physically hit each other (more Perry to Harry in that regard). The end of the film finds the former thief working for the gay private eye and a hint of friendship has been established yet Perry still refers to his protege as an idiot. The idea that these two characters, pretty much hated by others, end up as inevitable friends is juxtaposed with their continued abrasive comments and actions towards each other. A step up from previous buddy relationships such as that found in aforementioned Lethal Weapon which, at the end of the film, finds Murtaugh inviting Riggs into his family home.
The characters themselves are wonderfully written and feel like flawed individuals that may just exist. Harry is, by all accounts, an ass. One example of this occurs when he meets up with Harmony, the girl he had a crush on throughout his youth and, after getting drunk, sleeps with one of her friends and then tries to justify it. He makes countless mistakes throughout the film, be them personal mistakes in his relationships with other characters or outright blunders when trying to act as a private investigator, such as playing russian roulette and blowing a guys brain out on the first pull of the trigger. Luckily Harry is played by Robert Downey Jr. who is perfectly pitched to portray the bumbling, fast-talking out-of-his-depth protagonist and delivers each line with his distinctive dry wit.
Val Kilmer is next up in a role that may be the highlight of his career. Perry van Shrike, known as Gay Perry, is a somewhat mean, hostile and cynical character who ironically talks straight with everyone, delivering the hard truth whenever needed such as shattering Harry’s dream of actually being cast in a movie (telling Harry he is a bargaining chip to scare Colin Farrell into lowering his fee). The interplay between the two leads, played perfectly by both actors, helps keep your attention in a fast-paced story that plays on the conventions of the noir genre and movies in general. Narrated by Downey Jr. and featuring several meta-textual and self-referential moments, the movie is not afraid to repeatedly take risks in its style and presentation and even comments on its own coincidence heavy storyline.
Michelle Monaghan proves herself more than able to stand shoulder to shoulder with her co-stars and is never outshone, creating a likeable fully rounded character in what could easily have been a pedestrian role. Corbin Bernsen, though having limited screen time as retired actor and antagonist Harlan Dexter, also provides a solid character portrayal that is a shade more than your typical villain. Larry Miller also stars as Harry’s agent Dabney Shaw, a typical Hollywood character that raises a few smiles early on in the film and is the link between Harry and Perry.
The film is narrated by Downey Jr. and features several meta-textual and self-referential moments, including freezing of film frames, skip backs to previous flashbacks and even directly addressing an old couple standing in an inconvenient part of one particular frame. The movie is not afraid to repeatedly take risks in its style and presentation and even comments on its own coincidence heavy storyline, leading to a somewhat unique, highly entertaining ride that, while not deep and profound, is pure fun through and through.
The film would make back its budget of $15 US Dollars in the global market despite the generally positive reviews but has started to earn cult status, with more people discovering it as they look into Robert Downey Jr.’s back-catalogue since his success with the Marvel franchise. Director Shane Black would later be recommended by Downey Jr. for Iron Man 3, which proved to be a global hit at the box office and included Black’s trademark wit and humour.
Is there anything bad about the movie? The convoluted plot itself could be seen as a negative however the entertainment value and the clever assassination of Hollywood itself, whether its targeting character archetypes or plot contrivances, overcomes and even acknowledges the storyline. Put simply, this film will make anyone smile and those aware of story structure, the noir genre and Hollywood clichés will simply find more fun to be had.
Finally, a short clip in which our heroes attempt to interrogate a suspect with disastrous and hilarious results…