Plot Harry Lockhart (Downey Jr.) is a petty thief turned accidental actor (don’t ask) being shown the ropes by real private eye Gay Perry (Kilmer), who happens to be gay. Then he meets his childhood sweetheart, Harmony (Monaghan), a failing actress working the party scene. And then the bodies start turning up. In Harry’s shower, for starters…
That this filmis called Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is a big hint. It’s a snarky in-joke, a gleeful signpost to exactly where this energetic and blackly comic return to the fold for screenwriter Shane Black (who directs for the first time) is headed. For not only does it reference the working title of 007’s fourth adventure Thunderball, it is the name of legendary critic Pauline Kael’s second collected work, a label penned to deride the thrill-seeking shallowness she felt had irrevocably poisoned cinema. Which is where Mr. Black comes in. His murder-mystery-noir-farce (it’s kind of a first) is, at heart, a deconstruction of both Kael’s complaint and Bond’s sexy, trigger-happy delirium. Can you make a movie undeniably shallow, base, violent (and incomprehensible), yet invest it with satirical cunning and knowingness, energised by brilliantly barbed screenwriting? Yes, it transpires, you can.
Black, who burned out at the close of the ‘80s, has taken the formula he helped cement — Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout et al — turned it on its head and slammed it into the sidewalk. Out of the bloody remains, he’s assembled a manically askew take on pulp fiction. The story is partly based on a Brett Halliday novel and keeps tabs on its own fictional dime-store scribe Johnny Gossamer, whose novels eerily echo the gumshoe smog of the plot. Or is it the other way around? It’s a traditional beat lurching through a lurid, contemporary world. The LA scene, the director’s old turf, is smeared across the screen and junked by Harry’s motor-mouthed comebacks, fed by Black’s caustic attack on his own industry. Check out the Native American Joe Pesci.
No holds are barred. We’re talking the kind of meta-lunacy where the narrator — a testy Harry — can spool the film backwards to re-run to a forgotten detail, admit an evident cheapness, or even have the lead pair bid farewell to the audience.
At times it strains its own conceptual arrogance, shaving scarily close to the blather of Last Action Hero (which Black had a hand in). The plot itself is so jet-propelled it’s impossible to follow. You’re not really meant to, but it is a policy that opts for hip gesture over genuine drama, not so distant from Tarantino’s movie-movie world where emotion is denied a visa. The violence is bloody but nonchalant — Harry variously loses a finger, acts as a local punch-bag and has his balls electrocuted, and the idea is to laugh.
That it doesn’t cave in beneath the weight of its own chaotic, po-mo posturing is down to the charming, not to say disarming, delivery from three fabulous lead performances and Black’s deft hardwiring of genre conventions with outrageously funny booby traps.
There are moments here that rival Pulp Fiction’s iconic dementia for permanence: Harry urinating over a dead body, Harry dangling from a coffin that is dangling from a freeway bridge, Harry’s ill-considered variation on Russian roulette. Downey Jr., his face a blueprint for partying way too hard, gives this intrepid loser a restless vitality; he’s our man, but an idiot all the same. Monaghan’s leggy Harmony is all contradiction, a sweetheart femme fatale and a brainy-bimbo nerve-ball. And the inspired Kilmer, preened and put-upon, actually manages to camp things down. He and Harry are the oddest of odd couples: “It’s not good cop/bad cop,” snarls Perry at another upended cliché, “this is fag and New Yorker — you’re in a whole lot of trouble.” Get the drift?
Verdict Bold and breathless, this trippy, hilarious, know-it-all comedy-thriller will have you reliving its ironic spoils for days, but you’ll still be hard-pressed to nail the actual story.
great movie. To laugh out loud and wince genuinely during the same scene, never mind film, is a rarity! Black's script is perfectly pitched and delivered wonderfully by the 3leads... Kilmer in particular is a forgotten gem...! More of the same please Mr Black...! ... More
This film is brilliant. The mish mash of comedy and violence is perfect. I don't personally know many people who have seen this film, but everyone I have recommended it too has loved it.
I loved Robert Downey Jr anyway, but this really raised my opinion of Val Kilmer, and showed how versatile he can be, person I think he is underrated as an actor. ... More
It has an amazing scrpit and the cast are fantastic - Val Kilmer and RDJ are brilliant and Monaghan is suprisingly great. Its hilarious, and oddly gripping, although the plot is almost impossible to explain. ... More
A really good movie. Funny and entertaining. Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer are very good together, creating a lot of laughs. The plot is actually quite complex, but this doesn't take anything away from the film. It is still "workoutable". Highly recommended. ... More
The film is fresh, trippy, original, innovative and hysterically funny. This explosive action comedy has, mmm... some good twists and turns. It isn't the trigger-happy film that everyone wants. It's one of the most original, dark, go-for-broke, balls-out, and fresh-as-an-ice movies I've seen in a long time. Downey Jr.'s performance was superb, Kilmer was awesome and Monaghan was unbelievably good. Black's adaptation of Brett Halliday's stupendous novel "Bodies Are Where You Find Them" ... More
...but loved every second of it.
I've watched it twice now, in the space of two days, hoping that the second time I'd be able to understand what was going on, and even then its near impossible.
The lines are instant classics - "don't worry, I saw the last Lord of the Rings, I'm not gonna end this 17 times" - and will have you quoting it for days.
Downey Jr. is, as is apparently common consensus, perfectly cast, and Kilmer gives an amazing performance, almost as good as he is in '... More
Very funny - some laugh out loud moments when you are ashamed of yourself for laughing. More Robert Downey Jr please, he was perfectly cast in this movie. Mind you, the movie was perfectly cast overall. See it! ... More
This is an amazing movie and shows that not only can Shane Black write brilliant noir buddy movies, but he's a mean director too. With many of the elements that proved to be the foundation of the Lethal Weapon movies, plus a know-it-all attitude that is pleasantly originally, makes this an exceptional movie. Downey Jnr is excellent as the thief-come-PI character and plays the part very well. And Val Kilmer's Gay Perry has to be the funniest butch gay character I've ever seen! All in all, this is... More
Robert Downey Jnr is on masterful form and recreates a character he can seemingly relate to. Val Kilmer is elegent, understated and suave as both leads bounce off each other like they've been working together for years. Without this connection the film wouldn't reach the level it does. The narration is bearable and helps confuse the storyline even more which is where its essence lies. You want them to succeed even though you are not quite sure what they are trying to accomplish. ... More