Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)


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Before Iron Man 3 (you may have heard of it?) Director Shane Black and Robert Downey Jnr collaborated on a movie that now looks like the very point of revival for both, not just for everyone’s(?) favourite Avenger.

Compare the before and after Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and it’s plain to see that Downey soon became reliable again, with further mainstream roles coming his way (the brilliant Zodiac) before the big time of 2008’s Iron Man. Not that long before he was still uninsurable after years of well documented troubles.

Black had been off the radar too, seven years since a writing part in Lethal Weapon 4 after a self-withdrawal from the pressures and loathing of the commercial machine his stories had become part of. It would seem he has found comfort since or he must hate how Iron Man 3 is doing right now?

Black and Downey are a stellar team for sure, both publicly complimentary and attributing each other for their revivals. Black gave Downey his fresh break and now Downey seems to have had a hand doing likewise.

It’s funny when watching Kiss Kiss, how the comparisons with Iron Man 3 are now astounding; A Christmas time setting, pin sharp dialogue and humour and most curiously the Iron Man-esque – Protocop.

Could Iron Man 3 be a Kiss Kiss sequel? Of course not, but the stamp of Black’s dissing dialogue is all over both as in his other seminal action movies.kiss-kiss-bang-bang-2005

Kiss Kiss is arguably his cleverest work drawing on Brett Halliday’s noir novel, a shrewd murder mystery that sees Downey’s phoney actor Harry Lockhart joining forces with Val Kilmer’s private dick Gay Perry to solve the intricate murder case of a friend of Harry’s childhood sweetheart Harmony (Michelle Monaghan), a small town girl drawn to the bright lights and dreams of tinsel town.

Black’s effective and hilarious dialogue becomes key in that much of the saggy, frantic passages where it all gets a little wayward and confusing is held up by put downs and buddy play, keeping everything freshly on point.

Downey’s and Kilmer’s central partnership is poetry in scathing motion. An odd couple, caustic and sarcastic to one another, delivering what amounts to the finest of volleying in haphazard and outrageous situational comedy as bodies pile up, reappear and are amateurishly disposed of. Respect the dead? Not here.

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Whereas the leading men’s play is indifferent banter, Downey’s time with the sassy Monaghan is pure chemistry, a brash ego equal to Downey, uncomfortably forward for him, making for some sweet and sexy protective interplay from Downey as he questions her Hollywood lifestyle?

As does Black’s satirical commentary on LA, his directorial debut seems as much a personal statement in its lampooning of the LA fame machine as it is a fine example of his whip-snapping prose practiced in countless action vehicles that provided the blueprint for the verbal jousting  of late 80’s and 90’s action.

Black’s screenplay is astute too in dovetailing episodes of violence next to hilarity; the removal of fingers followed swiftly by a retort and Kilmer’s neatly concealed crotch gun dispensing with another henchman. As recently seen in Iron Man 3, his fumbling goons intimidate with a banterers wit while carrying out torturous events.

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Rather than serve to glamorise violence, these paralleling tonal changes dispense with the otherwise unpalatable while darkly ridiculing to keep a sense of fun and cool.

Even Downey’s narration which could really have become vexing is cleverly worked in so as not to break the tabooed fourth wall, his self-referencing Meta fiction is a clever and refreshing take on an overused cinema mainstay.

Black too shows notable prowess with the camera as well as the pen, with gritty capture and effective action but his screenplay and a respect and clear knowledge of noir classics is where Kiss Kiss’ succeeds the most.

The first collaboration of Hollywood’s renaissance men is a hilarious and cool LA noir satire that intriguingly parallels fiction with their own pursuit of the American dream.

For Black and Downey, the billion plus dollars taken by Marvel’s man in a can represents the sweetest of dream returns. Who’d of thought it!?

 4 star plain

39 responses to “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

      • Trust me, you did. It was an absolute joy to read! It was so sharp, and I laugh every single time I watch it. It is on my watch list for my end of exams celebration, and after this I am even more excited to watch it!

  1. A little too much focus on the plot, but still fun and hilarious, especially due to the dynamic from Kilmer and Downey. Good review.

    • a brilliant double act, Black is the king of doing that. the plot got messy and that’s the only real fault for me, but it’s constantly punchy. Thanks my man!

  2. It’s been a while since I’ve seen this one, but I definitely enjoyed the hell out of it. I’ve been wanting to revisit it again since seeing Iron Man 3, so I should really get on that. Good review, man! 🙂

    • yeah same reason here, I still remembered Black directed it and I always remember him for Predator more than anything else!? Get on it, I would check that out. Thanks for the praise 😉

    • I have Seen her in mission impossible 3, source code, gone baby gone, machine gun preacher and eagle eye but that was garbage otherwise the rest are good. Love her in this very sassy indeed. Was saying to fogs I could have used more provocative pictures but I’m not that shallow 😉

  3. Great film that’s flown under the radar for too many people. Downey, Kilmer, and Monaghan are all brilliant in this. Solid review; shows why it’s such a great film.

    • Thanks Morgan! I could have covered more but then I would be in essay country! I saw it back in the day but only watched it again recently. Seen it three times maybe in all. Really good film that probably upset a lot of people in Hollywood hence why black hasn’t directed a film until iron man 3!? He is lined up for more now, wonder why that is? 😉

  4. Just watched this on HBO Go and thought it was great. Would love to see a sequel of this one. Would much rather see Black do something like this rather than Iron Man 3 which I thought was a bit of a let down.

    • I liked it, but I had low expectations after The Avengers, it was going to struggle to beat it. Glad you liked kiss kiss, it was pretty cool wasn’t!? Thanks Jedi!

  5. Nice review Kevin! I really enjoyed this one, fun bromance between RDJ and Val, I wish Val had more good roles these days. I also like the gorgeous Michelle Monaghan here, glad she’s been getting more roles since.

    Btw, upvoted! 😀

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