Monday, September 10, 2007

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

The verdict: Savvy, slick street-wise comedy actioner with a good sense of humour, this is pretty good fun.

The rating: 6/10

For some reason, I filed 'Kiss Kiss Bang Bang' in the 'maybe' category when it was released, and so never quite caught up with it. However, more recently I've seen Robert Downey Jr. in the brilliant 'A Scanner Darkly' and the thoroughly great 'Zodiac', and he's considering he's soon to star as the hero in the upcoming 'Iron Man', I figured it'd be remiss of me to let the movie that relaunched his glittering post-rehab career pass me by.

Also of interest is the comparitive lack of success that Val Kilmer has enjoyed since this - critically acclaimed and financially successful - movie was released.. I mean, have you seen him in anything recently? What's that? You mean you didn't see him in 'Ten Commandments: The Musical'? Shame on you reader, shame on you.

Anyhoo, Shane Black wrote and directed this movie, and this guy also wrote 'Lethal Weapon', back when the buddy cop movie was a fresh idea, and the origins of this genre are widely credited to him as it happens. Black also wrote what was so nearly Arnie's greatest moment, 'The Last Action Hero'. Sadly, that movie missed its marks, and was widely hailed as a turkey, but he did pen 'The Last Kiss Goodnight', one of those 'actually not too bad' movies you occasionally catch on d'telly.

It's safe to say that 'Kiss Kiss Bang Bang' is a better movie than Black's other writing credits, and as writer and director here, he has to take much of the plaudits for this, because it is very well written and looks great. The dialogue is sharp and crackles with wit and energy, delivered effortlessly by Downey Jr., who also plays the role of the self-conscious narrator. Kilmer has some great lines as the gay private detective 'Gay Perry', and Michelle Monaghan is only occasionally annoying as Harmony, the aspiring actress embroiled in the same nefarious Hollywood goings on as Downey Jr., and with a few dark secrets of her own to boot.

It's essentially a mystery suspense thriller type of deal, but so tongue in cheek that it's difficult to get too worried about what happens on screen, with Kilmer and Downey Jr.'s scenes together particularly good fun to watch. Downey also has a good chemistry with Monaghan, and there is a particularly good scene featuring a spider that made me laugh out loud. The story twists and turns with ruthless efficiency, and all builds towards a set-piece finale, with the efficiency of a well-oiled Hollywood machine, at times veering towards pat story-telling, but always with a few dry one-liners to keep the audience smiling.

Black has very obviously been influenced by Guy Ritchie's 'Lock Stock' and 'Snatch', and there were moments here evoking memories of those movies. Someone losing a finger shouldn't make you laugh, for example, but in Shane Black's world, as in Ritchie's, this type of incident seems quite easy for the audience to take on board, and is used as a comedy prop.

I found the whole thing good fun and it trundled along at a nice pace. However it was wrapped up a little too easily in the end with an improbable and jarring action sequence. Also, even though it was set in L.A., against the vacuous backdrop of aspiring actors and actresses, the whole thing just felt a bit lacking in substance. Black has improved his comic delivery, and polished the packaging of his movie to look shiny and new, but at the end of the day, this film is not much more memorable than his previous offerings. That said, it's not a bad dvd choice for a night in, you could definitely do a lot worse.

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