Director: Shane Black
Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Val Klimer, Michelle Monaghan
Plot: When Harry (Downey Jr) meets his old high school crush (Monaghan), they are thrown into a dark murder mystery in the not-so glamorous L.A.
Despite nothing but glowing reviews from everyone who has watched it, it took me a long while to get around to watching Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Summarising the plot, it is easy to see why. Harry is a cocky thief, who is running away from the cops, when he hides in an audition room. He accidentally gets shortlisted for the part of the film’s lead and is dragged to Hollywood to meet the crew. He is asked to shadow real life private investigator, Gay Tony, to get a feel for the detective world and in doing so, he ends up taking on his own case for an actress, who he had a crush on in the past. It sounds so ridiculous and corny that most would steer away from it, but please don’t. This movie is one of the funniest, most interesting films I’ve had the pleasure of watching in a long while.
All of those plot points I’ve covered are quickly laid on the table within the first twenty or so minutes. This is helped by the rapid fire narration from Robert Downey Jr. Usually I roll my eyes at the idea of a narrator in a film, but Robert Downey Jr is such a pleasure to spend time with that you never get bored of his quips and observations. He parodies the traditional Noir inner monologue perfectly, telling the audience how rubbish he is at the narrating job and how he promises not to end the film eighteen times like Lord of the Rings did. Robert Downey Jr is the life and energy of the film and if you are a fan of his, then this film is him at his best. Sarcastic, witty and surprisingly sensitive, he is a great lead. There is a sense that his cocky bravado and jokes are just armour for a weak, confused character that knows that he is in way over his head with this case.
The other two leads do a great job as well. This is Val Kilmer at his best, allowed to just have fun with the script. Some of his quotes are simply amazing and will have you rocking back and forth, tears of laughter streaming down your eyes. Also at her best is Michelle Monaghan, who plays the love interest. On the surface, she doesn’t seem like a strong female figure. She is the stereotypical Hollywood starlet, so used to men trampling all over her that she kind of just lets them get on with it. However, Black writes a script that lets Monaghan go deeper with the character and it evolves into a fantastic role. Sure, she isn’t meant to be the sharpest tool in the box, but she is a useful character and a joy to watch. In fact, every actor in this movie is at their highest potential, suggesting that Shane Black has a knack at harnessing the full acting talent of everyone on his film set.
The brilliant thing about Kiss Kiss Bang Bang though is the fact that it is extremely funny. As in every joke is guaranteed to hit the mark. But the unusual thing is that the content isn’t funny material. We have abused childhoods, bloody murders and Robert Downey Jr getting electrocuted in the balls. But it works. And we have to thank Shane Black for that. His writing is so brilliant here that he can spin the darkest story into something where we manage to see the funny side. If you like your humour bright and sunny, stay away, but if you don’t mind a pinch of brutality, then Kiss Kiss Bang Bang will be your ideal Friday night movie. But then the mystery side manages to appeal as well. Usually, when we get murder mystery parodies, the mystery is a slim thing, more of a narrative device or an excuse to cram jokes in. But no, here, there is an interesting conspiracy at play. It is rather confusing and it might take a second, or even third, watch to totally understand the answer to everything, but it is an enjoyable experience nonetheless. Black is in total control of his script and as an audience we appreciate that.
Final Verdict: If you love interesting cinema, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is for you. Shane Black weaves a funny, brutal story about Noir crime, told perfectly through the always outstanding Robert Downey Jr.