Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang ★★★★½

One of my readers suggested I review Kiss Kiss Bang Bang as part of my month-long endeavor.  I was all for it, until said reader mentioned I should do it because he was one of the five people who actually cared about this blog. Way to be an asshole, bro. So I put it off as long as I could in an effort to anger this young man, but I can delay no longer.

Why did I put it off so long? I don't just mean over the last three weeks; I mean over the last 8 years. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang has long been recommended, but for some reason I always stayed away. I think it is more of that blasted hype machine that takes over when a film comes out. The thought process is that there is no way the film can live up to the buzz, so why bother? Well I'm glad I shook loose the shackles of such close-minded thinking.

The film itself is a less-than-hard-boiled P.I. tale, very reminiscent of one of the better Elmore Leonard adaptations. And that's a good thing. Leonard is clearly an influence on writer/director Shane Black - this movie (much like Leonard's work) cares about developing the characters (all the characters) first and the story second. It's a fantastic approach that allows even a lackluster story to shine. The concept of character development is one that hasn't caught on with all filmmakers for some reason, despite the fact that if the viewer cares about the characters, they will be interested in the story regardless of how ridiculous it may seem.

The movie is set in Hollywood (think Get Shorty but even more meta), and accompanied by a pitch perfect narration from Robert Downey, Jr.'s Harry. Harry mentions a fictional literary character he and Michelle Monaghan's Harmony grew up reading, and how that character exceeded the grasp of his author. That sentiment becomes very true as the characters realize their lives are turning into one of these Johnny Gossamer novels.

But Gossamer isn't the only character getting a little too big for his britches; the same can be said about Harry. The narration is irreverent, and often critical of the writing, editing, and composition of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang's final cut; as if to tell Shane Black that he is notice. Such a conceit could fall flat under a lesser actor, but Downey, Jr. is the right man for the job. This film came out at the begginging of RDJ's mid-2000s renaissance (Iron Man wouldn't be released for another three years), and so it is cool to see a younger older-RDJ. He is not as cocky as the Tony Stark portrayal that would make him a household name again, but he is pretty close.

Although Downey, Jr. Is ostensibly the film's lead, the real MVP is Val Kilmer as Gay Perry, an actual P.I. showing Harry the ropes. Kilmer is perfect as the smug, sarcastic shit, but somehow still manages to be lovable. The picture really takes off when he and Harry are brought together for the first time.

All in all this is a great movie, definitely one of my favorites that I have watched this month. It is not perfect, however. The movie relies a lot of luck and coincidences, which you have to come to terms with pretty early on in order to enjoy it. And a couple of the set-pieces go on a little too long. Still, none of this detracts from the overall experience. Plus this movie takes place during Christmas! I had no idea! How perfect is that? And so, in that spirit I offer this review up as a present to that rude reader of mine. Happy Holidays, dick.

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