Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Val Kilmer and Michelle Monaghan
Director: Shane Black
Rating: Nine of Ten Stars
In "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang," petty thief Harry (Downey) is whisked away to Hollywood when a casting director decides he'll be perfect to play a detective in an upcoming movie. Here, he meets homosexual private detective "Gay" Perry (Kilmer) and, through a chance encounter, is reunited with childhood friend and unfulfilled dream-girl Harmony (Monaghan). The trio soon find themselves (despite their best efforts not to be) involved with mysteries, murders, and mayhem so bizarre that it's as though they've stepped into a classic pulp dime store mystery novel.
"Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang" manages to be both a black comedy and a modern take on "film noir," as our reluctant heroes try to sort out the evermore complicated and deadly mystery they have been drawn into. The humor is derived from extremely witty patter that is delivered with great skill by Downey and Kilmer, and from the movie's playful fourth-wall approach to the ever-present narrator so common in this type of film. (More than once, the narrator--Harry--stops the film and comments that he left something and then goes on hilarious, self-deprecating rants about narration, storytelling, and how bad he is at both.) Laughs are also generated by the way the film turns several of the genre's conventions on its head, prime among these being that the hardboiled detective is openly gay.
This movie is fantastic not only because every actor is at the top of their game for every moment they spend on screen, but also because the film manages to keep its tense mystery plot going while being playful with the artifact that is a movie and the narration device. Even the digs at the "typical Hollywood happy ending" that the film gets in at the end, and the final wrap-up by the narrator are executed so flawlessly that they actually work!
Pay attention, all you filmmakers who think you're making clever suspense movies or clever comedies about movie-making and Hollywood... "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang" is an incredibly well-done example of how to do both.