Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Shane Black is a very important to almost any male who spent any time socially developing in the 1980’s.  You see, Mr. Black at the tender age of 25 wrote and sold a screenplay titled ‘Lethal Weapon’, a film that pretty much created the modern era buddy action film.  He also penned the next three Lethal Weapon films, The Long Kiss Goodnight, and what I personally consider the most ridiculous movie ever made, ‘The Last Boy Scout’.  I’ll do retrospective review on that one in the near future and let you know why.  So all hail Shane Black as he takes his first shot at the directors chair with the surprisingly effective and irreverent, but woefully studio under supported 'Kiss Kiss Bang Bang'.

Robert Downey Jr. is Harry Lockheart, a truly bottom of the barrel New York con man attempting to rob a Toys R’ Us or something to get toys for his nephews Christmas presents.  Things go a little askew for our hero and while on the run from the cops, he ducks into a building where an acting audition happens to be taking place.  He gives an impromptu ‘performance’ and next thing you know, he’s being flown out to L.A. for a screen-test.  Hours off the plane, he runs into Harmony (Michelle Monaghan) at a Hollywood party.  About the party, I assume Mr. Black has probably been to a thousand of these things and spares no quarter on making fun of them.  Harmony and Harry were good buddies back in high school in Ohio, though Harry wanted them to be more, and Harry has the unfortunate distinction of being the only boy at the school that Harmony didn’t sleep with.  He also meets Gay Perry (Val Kilmer) at the party, who is a gay private detective (lotsa of fun was had with that as well). Perry agrees to shuttle Harry around the city so he can observe his detective

style for his audition.  During a routine job a dead body pops up, then another dead body and next thing you know Harry, Harmony, and Perry are involved a real live explosive murder mystery.

Wrapped around a theme of pulp fiction novels, Kiss Kiss is black comedy at some of its darkest.  There are so many subtle nuances to much of the humor that you may have to watch it twice to catch it all, and I HATE watching movies more than once.  But this one was worth the extra effort.  When a man pees on a corpse and it makes you laugh, someone is doing  something right, or, perhaps, you’re just one sick bastard.  Black takes absolutely nothing seriously, pokes fun at everything, especially himself and the genre he helped redefine.  Some may find sections of the dialog trite and pretentious and loaded with inside Hollywood jokes, and I’m pretty sure people in the ‘business’ watching this movie were laughing there ass off at some scenes while those of us in middle America were sitting there dazed and confused.  However there is enough violence, sex, nudity and profanity to keep just about anybody entertained, or completely offended, through the duration.  But it’s the humor, both sub-texturally and overtly that drives 'Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang'.  The bits come at a pace that’s almost Zuckeresque ,and Robert Downey Jr. as the engine that drives the damn thing is at his irreverent detached best.  But about Val Kilmer as Gay Perry, he was outstanding in the role, as he is in most things he does not titled ‘Alexander’, but other than a couple of key gag / escape devices, I don’t quite know why his gayness was such an issue.  Again, Hollywood dudes are probably laughing their heads off, but I’m just a simple Midwesterner, who Downey apologized to at the end of the movie by the way.

Regardless, I don’t understand why the studio placed this smart, clever film in only limited release and then quickly pulled it.  But they dump crap like ‘Date Movie’ or ‘Stick It’ or the greatest offender, “Basic It Stank 2” out for wide theatrical release.   Oh well, thank heaven for DVD.  Checkout Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang if you have a chance.

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