Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

5 stars


1st March 2006

Ask any young filmgoer who their favourite screenwriter is and they'll probably tell you that - shock horror - the pen of Quentin is what turns them on. Chances are, they're just as big a fan of one Shane Black, the only thing is, they probably don't even know it. Black is the motormouth behind gems like Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout, the man who was famous in Hollywood for turning words into cash (he sold his script for The Long Kiss Goodnight for an unprecedented $4.5m) and can lay claim to being the man who dragged buddy movies kicking and swearing into the nineties. Though he's been off the radar for nigh on a decade - by his own admittance, he'd been living the Swingers lifestyle in Vegas - he's managed to stay off the craps just long enough to pen and direct his comeback flick, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, Black's modern-day tribute to the film noir thrillers of the thirties and forties.

Shane, you've been gone too long. You'd have to go all the way back to the early Lethal Weapons to find a detective movie as fresh and funny as Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. Professional fuck-up Robert Downey Jr. plays Harry Lockheart, a good-natured con who bursts into a Hollywood audition while on the run from the police after a botched robbery. When his emotional outburst is confused for old-school method acting and he's hired for the job, Harry is sent to Val Kilmer's private investigator 'Gay' Perry Van Shrike for acting lessons, and lo - the Riggs and Murtaugh of the 21st century are born. Upon meeting up with school friend and lost love Harmony (Monaghan) at an LA pool party, Harry and Perry get entangled in a murder case that encapsulates pink wigs, piss-soaked corpses and depressed robots along the way.

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is notable for many things. Firstly, the pairing of Downey Jr. and Kilmer is absolutely inspired, proving that the former is a fine comic actor (when he stays off the junk) and that the latter has a much bigger range than he's given credit for. Next, there's the realisation that our generation doesn't need to rely on Tarantino and friends for sharp, scathing, self-aware screenplays that leap off the screen and nudge you in the ribs. Forget trying to be cool - Black is quite content to let his two leads goof off, raise hell and bitch at each other, all the while letting the audience in on the joke. Never mind tongue-in-cheek - Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is full-on open-mouth French kissing itself, and bloody loving it. "Hi, I'm Harry, I'll be your narrator," says Downey Jr. at the opening party, before reeling off a flashback explaining how he got there (he might be a narrator but that doesn't stop him forgetting important plot points and having to rewind through the action before telling it again properly). It's a movie that knows it's a movie about a guy pretending to be an actor, pretending to be a detective. Not only does it break down the fourth wall, it jumps in the seat next to you and pokes fun at itself.

A message to Robert Downey Jr. - stay off the sauce, because although getting off your tits on Russell Dust and waking up in a child's bed is kinda funny, it's can't hold a candle to your delivery of Black's wickedly dark dialogue. Harry is your lovable yet pathetic anti-hero, the kind of guy who's got the talk down to a tee, but just has to work on the walk (upon preventing a back room rape at a party, he spouts the kind of tough guy banter you'd expect from a leading man, only to get his ass kicked in the very next scene). Kilmer is an absolute revelation as the sarcastic 'Gay' Perry (who's "knee-deep in pussy" but can't get rid of the name) who, when compared to Downey Jr.'s fast-talking halfwit, is the gayest straight man in the history of cinema. With a caustic wit and a short temper, he's the perfect foil for Harry's oafish lout, and when he's not helping him out of scrapes, he's calling him the desperate idiot he really is. More of this please, Val.

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is that rare beast - an action comedy that manages to strike a fine balance between the two elements and doesn't have to substitute one for the other when supplies are low. It's intelligently written, superbly cast and displays a brazen disrespect of movie rules that simply serves to endear itself to you further - you simply won't want it to end. Cinema needs more modern film noir like this, so please Mr. Black, resist the call of the slot machines for a little longer and stick to what you do best - pulp fiction of a very different kind.

More:  Action  Comedy  Noir  Crackers
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