Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang(2005) – Amidst the various Jason Friedberg/Aaron Seltzer monstrosities we see nowadays that pass for parody (Any movie with a [Genre] Movie title and a couple others) it’s easy to forget there is such a thing as AFFECTIONATE parody. Something that aims to deconstruct, while as the same time pay loving homage to. A perfect example would be Scream. It exists as a clever deconstruction of slasher movie tropes while simultaneously functioning as a solidly built and effective slasher movie in its own right (while admittedly not being all that scary). Film noir is the genre that Kiss Kiss Bang Bang takes on. It was the comeback vehicle for Shane Black, the young screenwriter whose Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout made him an overnight sensation fir writing action movies. The amount he was paid for The Long Kiss Goodnight was the most money a studio had ever spent on a script. He sort of fell off the radar for a little while after that, but came back with this film that also marked his directorial debut. Since then he has gone on to co-write and direct the massive hit Iron Man 3. But first let’s focus on the film that brought him back to Hollywood’s good graces.

Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.) is a New York thief. One evening, near Christmas, he tries to steal a toy for his niece but sets off the alarm and goes running from the cops. His partner is shot (whether he lives or dies is never clarified) and Harry runs for the nearest cover. He runs right past a line of waiting actors into a movie audition. The scene he is to read hits a little too close to home and he explodes with panic at running from the cops and guilt over the fate of his partner. The producers are wowed and fly Harry out to Los Angeles to screen test. For the crime thriller he is set to get “detective lessons” from private detective Perry van Shrike or “Gay Perry” (Val Kilmer). While in L.A. Lockhart runs into his childhood/teenage crush Harmony Faith Lane (Michelle Monaghan) His attempts to impress her have decidedly mixed results. While on a stakeout with Gay Perry, the guys see a murder. Plus Harmony has a case for Harry, who she thinks is a P.I. due to a misunderstanding. And what does this all have in common with the Johnny Gossamer pulp detective novels that Harry and Harmony loved as children?

First of all let me state clearly that this is the movie that began the Robert Downey Jr. comeback. After trashing his career with drugs in the mid-90s he tried to make a comeback in the late 90s with a role an Ally McBeal, but he had to leave after less than a year because of… you guessed it, drugs. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was the first movie of note after that where he got to play a lead role and he makes the most of it. He brings his trademark deadpan wit to his role as actor and hilariously self-referential narrator. After this great roles in Zodiac, A Scanner Darkly, and most important for his career Iron Man followed. The rest is history. Conversely this seems to be the last great role for Val Kilmer. He is a great foil for Downey and has some of the best lines in the movie. (“So you’re gay?” “No, I’m knee-deep in pussy, I just love the nickname so much.”) To have the best lines in a movie opposite Robert Downey Jr. is a pretty big accomplishment.  It recollects his glory days as the lead in comedies like Real Genius and Top Secret! Another inversion I like is that instead of the typical noir femme fatale, Michelle Monaghan is a light and engaging presence who makes you fall for her the same way Harry did. (Actually I find Monaghan has that effect in most of her roles.) Additional supporting roles are filled out by talented character actors like Larry Miller, Corbin Bernsen, Dash Mihok, and Rockmand Dunbar. Everyone has a great time with the dialogue. The movie actually functions as a pretty solid mystery. It’s the kind of thing you might be able to figure out because the pieces are all laid out for you (Harry’s narration even calls attention to some of them) but you probably won’t. Either way, as per usual, the journey is more important than the destination. Check this one out.



So Robert Downey Jr. was in stuff in the 80s and early 90s then his career died down because of drug stuff.  THIS MOVIE marks the beginning of the great Robert Downey Jr. comeback.  It was this great movie then A Scanner Darkly (in which he was fucking award-worthy) then Zodiac (in which he was the best actor in a fucking great ensemble cast) then he was Iron Man and a black guy in Tropic Thunder and he was on top, even bigger that he was in the aforementioned 80s and early 90s.  I just watched Kiss Kiss Bang Bang for the third time and this movie is great.  It’s got a decent mystery but even better than that it is fucking funny.  Val Kilmer gives a performance that makes you ask “hey this guy was great in Real Genius and now this.  But he sucks in most drama nowadays.  Why the FUCK doesn’t he do more comedy?”  And Michelle Monaghan is extremely hot as always.  The movie is well-written and well-directed.  It’s funny and there a good amount of action in it but even when it’s in action mode, it’s still fucking funny.  Oh, I don’t know if I mentioned this but it’s also fucking funny. Sidenote: she has a really small role and doesn’t really do much but why isn’t Shannyn Sossoman in more movies?  She’s really attractive in sort of an unusual way…

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