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Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

4 Ratings: 4.5
A movie

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Director: Shane Black
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Release Date: October 21, 2005
MPAA Rating: R
1 review about Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

Clever and funny, maybe too clever, and with a fine performance by Robert Downey Jr

  • Apr 26, 2011
Rating:
+3
Part of me clearly appreciates the loving riffs on noir movies, but part of me is seriously put off by the nudge, nudge, ain't-I-being-clever pretensions of writer-director Shane Black. At one time, Black was Hollywood's highest paid screenwriter, proud author of such big-time drek as the Lethal Weapon movies, Monster Squad, Last Action Hero and The Last Boy Scout. In other words, he knew how to hit a bulls-eye with the 18 to 28 male target audience. In Hollywood, that spells quality writing with a cap K.
 
With Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, we're witness to one of Hollywood's (former) power players with a potty mouth wrestling with witty parody. The witty parody wins, but it's a close call. Why? Because Black can't resist self-congratulatory in-jokes and reveling in his own cleverness. He's the smart-mouth kid who tries to be the nonstop life of the party.
 
The set-up is nice...petty thief Harry Lockhart is running from the cops in New York when he busts in on a talent call for a movie. In short order he's sent to Los Angeles for more tests for a part of a private eye. Real private eye Gay Perry (Val Kilmer) is assigned to prep him. Then at a party he encounters Harmony Faith Lane (Michelle Monaghan), a woman he fell for when they were school children in Indiana. Before long Harry, who isn't too bright but is well meaning, is finding bodies in car trunks, on floors and in beds. He's beaten, shot, tortured and has a finger swallowed by a friendly mutt.
 
Gay Perry keeps rescuing him, Harmony keeps tempting him and hit men dog them all. The mystery is almost irrelevant. It's the brittle style, smart-mouth dialogue, loving reverence for the noir sensibility and the acting that gives us pleasure.
 
For my taste, Black's Hollywood insider cleverness in both the writing and the directing starts to get tiresome...not enough to be a complete turn-off, but enough that I wished he'd stop nudging us with his elbow. The movie chapter headings he gives us, each one a title of a Raymond Chandler novel, is a case in point. Clever and amusing the first time, tiresome the second time and "alright, all ready, we get it" each time after.
 
Kilmer and Monaghan do fine jobs with their roles, but it is Downey who really shines. He now has a hard-earned, lived-in face that serves him well. He can handle drama as easily as comedy. With Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, his Harry Lockhart is not exactly a loser, but he certainly is slow at grasping essential facts. Downey gives Harry a great deal for us to like. Mainly, he gives us a well-intentioned guy to whom all sorts of things happen. Harry survives because he's serious, because he's loyal to Perry, because he loves Harmony and because Downey has superb comic timing.
 
The title comes from Pauline Kael by way of an old Italian movie poster. Says Roger Ebert, "These four words, she wrote, `are perhaps the briefest statement imaginable of the basic appeal of the movies. The appeal is what attracts us and ultimately makes us despair when we begin to understand how seldom movies are more than this.'"

Hmmm...like the Lethal Weapon movies, Monster Squad, Last Action Hero and The Last Boy Scout?
Clever and funny, maybe too clever, and with a fine performance by Robert Downey Jr Clever and funny, maybe too clever, and with a fine performance by Robert Downey Jr Clever and funny, maybe too clever, and with a fine performance by Robert Downey Jr Clever and funny, maybe too clever, and with a fine performance by Robert Downey Jr

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April 26, 2011
I watched this movie a few years ago and remember loving it. It was memorably quirky, hilarious, and highly entertaining in a sufficiently fulfilling way. Now I'm totally in the mood to see this again, hah. Thanks for the great review!
 
April 26, 2011
Enjoyed this movie quite a bit....then again, I like Michelle Monaghan :)
 
April 26, 2011
I enjoyed this movie and really thought both Val Kilmer and Robert Downey Jr. did an amazing job. Great review!
 
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