© 2005 Ray Wong
Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer, Michelle Monaghan, Corbin Bernsen, Dash Mihok
Director: Shane Black
Writer: Shane Black (based in part on Brett Halliday’s novel, Bodies Are Where You Find Them)
Distributor: Warner Bros.
MPAA Rating: R for language, violence, sexuality and nudity
Running time: 103 minutes
Script – 8
Performance – 8
Direction – 8
Cinematography – 7
Editing – 8
Production – 8
Total Score – 7.8 out of 10
KISS KISS BANG BANG is not your normal Hollywood fare. At times it reminds me of GET SHORTY, but smarter and funnier.
Harry Lockhart (Downey) is a down-and-out petty thief who, through some cosmic joke, ends up in Hollywood as the action star of a new movie. While at a posh party thrown by the studio execs, Harry meets his childhood crush, Harmony (Monaghan) after more than 15 years. She’s an aspiring actress, but her real reason in Los Angeles is to find her runaway sister. Meanwhile, Harry teams up with a private detective Gay Perry (Kilmer), who serves as a consultant for the movie, to learn about his role as a PI. Gay Perry takes him on a stint, and they witness the murder of the daughter of a prominent actor, Harlan Dexter (Bernsen). Between running from the killers and trying to figure out what is going on, Harry, Harmony and Perry race against time to figure out “whodunit.” The chase is on.
It would be difficult to summarize the plot as this film takes the audience on a wild goose chase. Much of the fun of watching this movie is the fact that we don’t know where it’s taking us.
Downey Jr. (GOOD NIGHT, GOOD LUCK) is in top form here. It’s fun to see him playing a neurotic bumbling fool again. And it seems like he had a lot of fun doing it as well. While I don’t see him getting up to the podium at the Oscars soon, he truly has Harry’s character nailed. Kilmer (ALEXANDER) is also fun to watch as the gay PI. His deadpan humor and coolness are great juxtaposition to Downey’s twitchy neurosis. Together, they’ve become one of the best buddies this year, and I think we’re going to see them together again some time in the future. Monaghan (CONSTANTINE) completes the trio with her sassy, slightly ditsy turn as Harmony. She plays well opposite her two male costars, and she and Downey are steamy together.
Writer and first-time director Black (LEATHAL WEAPON series) has crafted a unique and fun ride. It’s great to see a film noir executed so well. Black employs some unconventional and interesting techniques – for example, he stops the narrative sometimes and has Downey explain what is going on. Voice-over narrative is not new in film noir, but the way Black does it is extra cool. He also interweaves the story with flashbacks and cinematic “footnotes.” Interesting. In a way, it’s somehow foretelling since we know Downey’s character is going to survive, at least long enough to tell the story. On the other hand, Black succeeds in tightening the suspense and mystery by giving us crumbs here and there, then telling us by using flashbacks or on-screen narration. It’s a unique approach and it works.
The film is highly original, funny, wacky, and very entertaining. There’s not a dull moment, and some of the plot twists are so bizarre that we can’t help but say, “Wait a minute…” It doesn’t really matter. It’s a bang-bang joy ride.