KISS KISS, BANG BANG
Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey jnr) is a petty thief on the run in New York when he inadvertently barges into an audition for a role in a detective movie. His emotions raw and visible from the bad incident with his partner in crime, he impresses the filmmakers. He is flown to Los Angeles for a screen test, where he is told to prepare for the character and introduced to private eye Perry Van Shrike (Val Kilmer). He also bumps into childhood friend, aspiring actress and big fan of Jonny Gossamer (fictitious hard boiled PI) Harmony Faith Lane (Michelle Monaghan), who needs his help. The threesome soon find themselves in the midst of an elaborate murder mystery, involving Harmony's younger, abused sister, a wealthy man and his estranged daughter, and several gangsters and bodyguards.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Murder mystery meets the odd couple in this blackly hilarious bravado film that goes further in self referentialism than anything seen before. Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey jnr) narrates the story, ratcheted up a few degrees to make us fully aware that the narrator is speaking directly to the audience. Not any audience, but this audience watching the film.
Black has injected creatively risky devices to achieve a rigorous freshness in what is a turbo-charged version of the hard boiled PI genre, including characters talking to the audience, referring to the scene being played and even stopping the film to go back a step.
From the 60s referenced graphic design of the opening titles [self generating floral lines depicting gunsmoke, for example, stick men figures and fast moving shapes] to the lacerating black humour threaded through dialogue, plot and cinematography, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang dares to make us laugh at the most arbitrary violence one minute and smile with bemused enchantment the next. Sharp dialogue is bleakly hilarious, the characters are notoriously wayward and the murder mystery is a labyrinth that grows more knotted as we try to unravel it. The spirit of Raymond Chandler emanates from the film like smoke from a burning cigarette stuck in the red lips of a femme fatale ... or from the smoking gun in her hand.
Much more sophisticated than Shane Black's Lethal Weapon series of scripts, KKBB has the gritty smarts of L.A. Confidential and its smirking, sour glance at Los Angeles, but it's the character of the larrikin Lockhart that gives the film its ballast of morality - strangely enough. A flawed anti-hero, Harry nevertheless has a firm set of moral principles to guide him, even though his flesh is not always as willing as his spirit.
Robert Downey's extraordinary creation of this loveable rogue gives the film heart and holds our interest, not merely the plot. His teaming with Val Kilmer's cool and gay private eye provides plenty of odd couple conflict humour, and Michelle Monaghan is terrific as the girl with more than meets the eye. All supports are great, and the action is a combination of ultra realism and deranged fantasy, full of surprises.
But it's the film's overall tone, it's disdain for convention and its bravura style that marks this as a work of compelling cinema with great mass appeal and satisfaction for lovers of hip, off-centre action comedy. Screened at Cannes in 2005, it should have won the Palme d'Or.
Review by Louise Keller:
A juicy noir thriller that's as enticing as its name, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is irreverent, quirky and highly entertaining. For those who like Robert Downey Jnr and the kind of edge he brings to a film, there's not much to surpass this interesting film that tells a story from the inside out. Lethal Weapon writer Shane Black has penned a sophisticated and clever script that will appeal to discerning audiences.
Downey is in top form as Harry Lockhart, an occasional thief whose love for Jonny Gossamer detective novels has allowed his imagination to take flight. He meets Harmony (Michelle Monaghan), a damsel who is soon in distress and tags along with Val Kilmer's 'Gay' Perry, a private eye, who is giving him detective lessons. Monaghan has great appeal, while Kilmer shows how good he really is. The action all starts at a Hollywood party; the plot involving an heiress, a couple of murders and a decapitated finger that is swallowed by a dog.
The script's witty and funny lines bring light relief in the most serious of moments, and surprisingly, it's the relationship between Harry and 'Gay' that are at the heart of the film. It's stylish, slick and ultra smart.
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KISS KISS, BANG BANG (MA)
CAST: Robert Downey jnr, Val Kilmer, Michelle Monaghan, Joel Michaely, Corbin Bernsen, Dash Mihok, Larry Miller, Rockmond Dunbar, Shannyn Sossamon, Angela Lindvall
PRODUCER: Joel Silver
DIRECTOR: Shane Black
SCRIPT: Shane Black (Brett Halliday novel)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Michael Barrett
EDITOR: Jim Page
MUSIC: John Ottman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Aaron Osborne
RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 10, 2005