KISS KISS BANG BANG
Shane Black is a clever, clever man. He pretty much set the
standard for "buddy" films after writing action masterpieces like LETHAL
WEAPON and THE LAST BOYSCOUT. He also delivered screenplays
for great flicks like THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT and the underrated but
fondly remembered THE MONSTER SQUAD. Perhaps the only weak moment
in his career came with the Arnold Schwarzenegger bomb LAST ACTION HERO,
though I'm sure that's not entirely his fault. The point is he knows how
to write good movies. Upon further inspection one would find that
Black's work in Hollywood isn't quite as extensive as people might think.
Most likely that's because Shane only puts pen to paper when he has something
decent in mind. Now he's going beyond the pen and jumping behind the
camera with his directorial debut KISS KISS BANG BANG. The film
stars Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer, and yes, it's kind of a buddy picture.
film opens at a Hollywood party held by sleazy studio executive Harlan Dexter
(Corbin Bernsen), where we're introduced through narration to Harry Lockhart
(Robert Downey Jr.). Explaining how a guy like him got where he is now,
Harry leads us into a flashback. During a botched robbery of a toy
store, his friend gets killed, and Harry busts into a screen test while hiding
from the cops. Playing along in hopes of avoiding suspicion, his
emotional stress actually ends up getting him the part, and next thing you
know he's living the movie star lifestyle. Harry ends up befriending a
detective/film advisor named Perry (Val Kilmer), who happens to be gay, hence
his nickname Gay Perry. When his childhood friend Harmony (Michelle
Monaghan) ends up in a spot of trouble, Harry enlists Perry's help, and the
two of them try to solve a case without contacting the police. But their
antics end up getting them deeper and deeper into trouble, and Lockhart begins
to rekindle some serious feelings for Harmony in the process.
movie is based on author Brett Halliday's novel BODIES ARE WHERE YOU FIND
THEM. Like most Shane Black scripts, this one is just plain fun.
It's one of those movies that follows a familiar formula, but never takes
itself too seriously. In fact Black takes several opportunities through
the narration to flat out poke fun at Hollywood movies in general. Think
MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER for an action film. The character of
Harry Lockhart is likable, but extremely flawed. He's not smooth, nor is
he all that smart. In many ways he's a terrible hero, but that's part of
the charm that makes it work so well. Robert Downey Jr. is terrific in
the role, using every opportunity to build on the character's inadequacies.
Val Kilmer is very good as well. His character is gay, which allows for
some hilarious jokes, but isn't overplayed like it easily could've been.
Truth be told he's used rather sparingly, which gives his presence more of an
impact when it's there. The real co-star here is Michelle Monaghan, who
despite her initially smart introduction, is in many ways just as screwed up
as our hero. It's nice to see a fresh face in the female lead, as
opposed to the "flavor of the month" female. These three carry the film
in style, and complement the screenplay in appropriate fashion.
Action film producer extraordinaire Joel Silver helped get this film made, at
an impressively low-budget of $15 million. It's impressive because this
film looks every bit as good as most big-budget studio spectaculars.
They've done a lot with a little here, and it proves you don't have to break
the bank to make a solid action film. Shane Black succeeds behind the
camera, and directs this flick with every bit as much style as some of the
bigger names we'd expect to see on a movie like this. His cavalier
attitude toward the script and characters is so great that just about anyone
could find something to enjoy here. The movie also manages to pull off
some cool twists and turns that the average filmgoer won't see coming.
The plot runs a little close to being too complicated, but the witty narration
by Downey covers for it, practically reading our minds as we watch the events
unfold. KISS KISS BANG BANG is one of the best movies I've seen
this year, and for unusual reasons at that. It's so similar to great
actions movies that have come before it, and yet so unique in it's own way.
I really hope it finds it's audience, as it truly deserves to. At the
very least the studio doesn't have as much to lose, which I'm sure helps put
their minds at ease a little bit. They might even forgive some of the
jabs the script takes at their kind. I remain a fan of Shane Black's
work, and after this effort sincerely look forward to what he can cook up
BIGFANBOY.com score - On a scale of
1 to 10, 10 being the best, I give KISS KISS BANG BANG a 9.
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