Up until about a month ago if you had mentioned the name Shane Black I would have had a bewildered look in my eyes. I was not aware of all the money he was paid for The Last Boy Scout or The Long Kiss Goodnight; I wasn’t even aware that he was responsible for the Lethal Weapon films. Fortunately, things change, and once I saw Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang I could see glimmers of everything Black had written before, but there is something different about Kiss Kiss, there is a lot more Black in this dark, comedic, romantic, mystery thriller.
That’s right, this one has it all and it is executed flawlessly by what just may be the only cast that could have pulled it off. Set in the world of the noir detective tales of yore, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang centers around one Harry Lockhart played to perfection by Robert Downey Jr. Downey is magic in this role, all his eccentricities and the oddities of his character are allowed to shine as he keeps you laughing and intrigued by his every move. On top of that he delivers some real emotion on a couple of occasions, something that proves this guy needs to be in more films.
Lockhart’s counterpart in this sordid tour through a glossy, yet dirty, Los Angeles is Perry Van Shrike, a.k.a. Gay Perry, played by none other than Val Kilmer. Yup, Val is heading back to his roots, the days of Real Genius and hammering in nails with his penis, only this time he uses it as a weapon. When you first learn Kilmer is playing a gay private detective it really doesn’t click, but once the movie gets rolling you are reminded of what a talent this guy is, on top of that a real nut (I’d like to submit defense Exhibit A).
This messed up flick begins as Lockhart, through blind dumb luck, is brought to Los Angeles in search of an acting career after he stumbled upon a casting audition during a robbery gone bad. The unlikely chap also serves as the film’s narrator throughout, which can get a bit on the nerves, but there is enough wit in his monologue that it never really gets in the way. Anyway, back to the story; Lockhart then meets up with Gay Perry who will be giving him a lesson in detective work 101, all in preparation for his upcoming role. Unfortunately, things don’t exactly work out the way they are expected.
During a training session Harry and Perry witness an actual murder and it is just dominos from that point on as things get more and more twisted. Another unlikely event in the story takes Lockhart back to his childhood when he runs into small town girl Harmony Faith Lane played by relative newcomer Michelle Monaghan.
Harmony and Harry were tight as could be at one point, but Harmony had big city dreams that didn’t exactly turn out as she planned. The one-time star searcher has found herself dragged through the Hollywood mud and Harry now finds her on the other end. But just like the crime novels teach us, their meeting is not coincidental, the wondrous web of mystery and mayhem just gets bigger, with a bit of added romance.
This unlikely threesome of Downey, Kilmer and Monaghan end up giving audiences a witty, dialogue filled romp through the City of Angels in a way you have never seen or heard. From finger chomping canines to scenes of electric shock torture this film runs the gamut, but at no time goes too far, but it does hang right on the edge.
Shane Black had not written a script in six years until this, and he also managed to make Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang his directorial debut and it is an impressive outing.
As long as audiences are willing to forgo the explosion filled crapfests currently populating our theaters Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang should do well as Black proves that good writing, acting and directing is much better than a wealthy budget. This little $15 million film is the movie that could; I just hope auds are willing to give it a chance.