Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" (2005)

"Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" (2005)
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer and Michelle Monaghan
Written and directed by Shane Black

Y'know who's awesome?  Shane Black.  Ask anyone out there who Steven Spielberg is, they know.  Ask the same person who is Shane Black, and you're likely to get blank stares.

Shane Black wrote one of my favorite movies, "Lethal Weapon."  He's since written a number of other pictures such as "The Last Boyscout" with Bruce Willis, but he's never seemed able to get back to that original magic.  Scripts he wrote were so heavily rewritten he barely wanted his name attached to them. 

In 2005, he directed "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang," and man is it great.  More comedy mystery than action thriller, the film stars Robert Downey Jr. as Harry Lockhart, a thief on the run from the cops who stumbles into a casting session and is offered a sweet gig in Los Angeles.  There, he meets Gay Perry, a detective consultant on the movie, who offers him 'detective lessons' in order to better equip himself for the role.  While in LA, Harry runs across Harmony, a girl he loved in high school.  A natural liar, even when he could or should tell the truth, Harry tells Harmony that he's now a detective.  When Harmony's sister winds up dead and she suspects murder, she turns to Harry to help solve the case.

Meanwhile, on their first 'detective lesson', Harry and Gay Perry manage to find themselves smack in the middle of a murder.  What connection do the two cases share?  Why is someone trying to frame Harry by leaving a corpse in his hotel room?  How exactly will Harry win over Harmony when he continuously tells her new lies instead of just opening up with the truth?  These are all questions answered in a highly entertaining fashion.

Robert Downey Jr. is, as usual, a joy to watch.  The man is simply hilarious, with the ability to sell practically any joke.  He's utterly capable of playing a player, smooth and wisecracking at once.  His narration of the film, a comedic version of the noir thriller that "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" seems to both love and lampoon, is priceless.  Just when you think it might get stale, Downey goes off on a rant about robots and his father telling a joke about a cowboy's horse that's so absurd, but so naturally delivered, that you can't help but realize he's the perfect man for the job.

And what about Gay Perry?  Val Kilmer turns in a brilliantly understated performance, selling a sardonic, homosexual detective all the way.  He's not a character who's at all ashamed about his sexual orientation; indeed, he often uses it to mock other characters in the film, especially at a crucial moment toward the climax.  If anyone in this movie could upstage Downey, it's Kilmer.  Bravo.

As I said, "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" isn't an action film.  There are short bursts of violence, and the climax features some solid chases and gunplay, but nothing like the final twenty minutes of "Lethal Weapon."  But it is highly entertaining and often downright hilarious.  The wit in Black's script is its key asset, helped along greatly by two extremely excellent lead performances.  Black's direction is solid, and he shows a clear talent for driving home his humor and setting up set pieces. 

Definitely give this one a go.