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"Kiss Kiss Bang Bang"

Directed by Shane Black.
Written by Shane Black.  Based in part on a novel by Brett Halliday.
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer, Michelle Monaghan and Corbin Bernsen.
Release Year:  2005
Review Date:  11/17/05


Shane Black, the man who wrote the "Lethal Weapon" scripts a lifetime ago, is back in his first directorial effort, and much like his previous flicks "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" is a great mix of comedy and the occasional shootout that just misses greatness but is still a fun ride nevertheless.

It starts with oddball casting to match the film's oddball script (also written by Black).  Petty thief Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.) is somehow matched up with Hollywood detective/consultant "Gay" Perry (Val Kilmer) as the two investigate a murder/suicide, a former actor (Corbin Bernsen) that may have something to do with it, and a plot to take out Gay himself.  With the help of Harry's childhood friend Harmony Faith Lane (Michelle Monaghan), Gay and Harry get into all kinds of trouble in search of the truth.  Along the way, we get dead bodies, a severed digit, some unnecessary crotch torture and lots of L.A. attitude...

...and a lot of laughs.  "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" gets a lot of mileage out of its intentionally-convoluted storyline (if that makes any sense) because in trying to complicate what seemed like a fairly straightforward case, Lockhart (who also narrates) has the chance to be goofy, confused and utterly useless throughout this movie as he tries to help real cop Perry (gay as springtime) solve the case.  It helps that Downey's manic energy matches well against the straitlaced character that Kilmer is playing.  Black drops a lot of little asides on the audience, be it Harry's anger at L.A., his witticisms regarding Harry's past, or the darker comedic elements surrounding Harry's continuous glimpses of murder most foul.

The acting by the two leads is great; Black gets good support from his leading woman as Monaghan is a perfect foil for Harry's incessant chatterbox by being a chatterbox of her own.   Featuring a slick-looking L.A. by night, Black also gets points for a cool-looking production set in Hollywood's backyard.  It's mostly the script that I had issue with, at least as the film wears along; it's almost too cute at times and by the end, it reminded me just a tad of Charlie Kaufman's scripts ("Eternal Sunshine...", "Adaptation") in its incessant need to exhibit writer intelligence by poking around at other Hollywoodisms; another random bit I didn't need was a drawn-out ending, and then to remind us that it's going long, we get to hear Harry mention "don't worry, we won't have like 17 endings like that last 'Lord of the Rings' film did"...and then, we get two more endings.  Maybe this is my hatred of narration in general, but still...get on with it!

Otherwise, "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" is good stuff.  Check it out before it heads home to DVD.

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09