Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Feb 2, 2020 14:06:19 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Feb 2, 2020 14:06:19 GMT -5
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
Directed by: Shane Black
Directed by: Shane Black
Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
After cutting his chops on two Lethal Weapon screenplays and Last Action Hero, Shane Black was ready to break into the directing scene. His debut, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang might indeed be one of the most underrated comedies of the aughts. With present day culture's affinity for meta humor and otherwise "serious" material that doesn't liken itself to such, one could make the argument it was released much too early to be appreciated in the moment. Today, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang has garnered something of a cult following, and Black has since released similar pictures, such as The Nice Guys, that have gone on to be rightfully lauded. Sometimes, it's better to be late to the party than never to show up at all.
Try telling that to Robert Downey Jr.'s Harry Lockhart, though, who, if provided a crystal ball presenting two outcomes, might've chosen prison over the party he later attended that kicked his life into overdrive. Harry is a petty thief, and an early heist at a toy-store goes awry, leaving him frantic. He storms into a casting call and plays off the interruption as if he's auditioning for a part. He not only avoids the cops but looks and sounds the part. Subsequently, he attends a party in Los Angeles where he meets a private investigator known as "Gay Perry" (Val Kilmer), who is supposed to coach him on how to better play the part of a detective. Harry's experience, however, turns into what seasoned performers would call "method acting," for he gets entangled in an inexplicable crime involving two dead bodies in a span of 24 hours, one of which suspiciously resurfaces in his hotel bathroom. On the plus side, he's reunited with Harmony (Michelle Monaghan), his high school crush who has since aspired to be a full-time actress herself.
The film is narrated by Harry in a self-referential manner. Harry has no problem pausing nor rewinding the story at leisure, either to clarify relationships or double-back when he forgets to fill in a blank for the audience. While there's no framework of Harry writing a screenplay based on his experiences, this device gives the impression that our narrator/protagonist is truly retelling this story in real-time. At the time, this was a rather bold inclusion in a mainstream film. The flaw is there is ostensibly no purpose for it within the movie's verisimilitude, and intended or not, it comes as first-time director Black being a bit self-conscious and too keenly aware of his own cleverness. Significant stretches of time go by without our hero's omnipresent monologue, which is something of a blessing when things really start to get going and we become too captured by the story to deal with a needless interruption. Having said that, more often than not when it does happen, Black keeps it interesting.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is kept kinetic by two forces: Black's screenplay, which refuses to slow down, and the core chemistry between Downey Jr. and Kilmer as a mismatched yet eminently likable duo. Downey Jr. fits like a glove as Harry, an unsure, lightly cynical low-man while Kilmer is enthusiastic as a parody of a parody of a gay character. It's lines such as Perry's "this isn't good cop, bad cop, this is fag and New Yorker" that keep the aura witty and the demeanor high, even as one character loses a finger, multiple are shot, and an innocent gesture of flicking a spider off of a woman turns into a potentially precarious situation. No matter what Black throws at his experienced leads, they take it in stride, and craft two memorable personalities. Michelle Monaghan, too, isn't your average femme fatale operating in a neo-noir template. She's too much of an open book, and at other times, she's about as hapless situationally as Harry, to whom she's frequently rolling her eyes for being the nebbish type.
The word I'd ultimately use to summarize Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is "balanced." Almost whatever Black decides to concoct, he keeps the amalgam of comedy and pulp fiction in check so that tendencies don't slowly overtake one another, and the film doesn't become too silly or too rigid. Like your favorite Quentin Tarantino film, there are moments you just want to watch again, or ones you'll happen to think about on a random Wednesday afternoon at work just to scour the internet for the clip to provide you with an in-the-moment chuckle. That's a legacy many films wish to have, and for such a difficult genre to pull off, especially in lieu of films such as Reservoir Dogs that fit the mold so well, Black tried something daring for his feature debut and succeeded enough that it's a heartwarming thought that audiences eventually sough it out. Even if, by that time, the ice in the punch had melted a bit and some of the hors d'oeuvres were gone.
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer, Michele Monaghan, Corbin Bernsen, and Larry Miller. Directed by: Shane Black.