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Overall Rating

Awesome: 33.33%
Worth A Look45.45%
Average: 15.15%
Pretty Bad: 1.52%
Total Crap: 4.55%

7 reviews, 24 user ratings

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Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
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by Erik Childress

"Fiction – Now With Half The Pulp"
3 stars

Somewhere between the mid-80s and the early 90s, there were three names that I would be happy to see on a film’s credits. Robert Downey, Jr. and Val Kilmer were doing some of the best work of their careers and a writer named Shane Black had started what would become the Lethal Weapon franchise. Since then, all have run into trouble or taken overextended sabbaticals. Downey had his personal problems (again) and Kilmer had shred off a series of boring, detached performances -- unlike the chameleonic prowess we had come to love -- that seemed to all begin with taking on the Caped Crusader. Black seemed to fall off the map completely after setting the bar for screenwriting paychecks with his four million for The Long Kiss Goodnight nearly ten years ago. Despite any reservations, the three of them on a marquee was still able to provide a glimmer to my eyes even after I still had reserved feelings leaving the film.

Based in part on mystery novelist Brett Halliday’s Bodies Are Where You Find Them, Black’s film is equal parts dissection of the private eye genre and the Los Angeles bourgoise; although there are more wholes to fill in. Harry Lockhart (Downey), a low-level thief stumbles into a casting call after his partner is shot during a botched robbery and finds himself a part in a Hollywood movie. Now hobnobbing amongst the L.A. elite, Harry will meet two people who will join him in a real-life murder mystery. “Gay” Perry Van Shrike (Val Kilmer) is a real P.I. and consultant to the movie industry and Harmony Faith Lane (Michelle Monaghan) is a wannabe actress whom Harry actually met years ago when they were childhood friends in Indiana.

On a routine stakeout where Perry promises to show Harry the boring aspects to being a professional snoop, a car in the lake leads to a body in the trunk and Harry not astute to realize never to ask for help from men in ski masks. The body is actually the daughter of former actor and current philanthropist, Harlan Dexter (Corbin Bernsen), a fact involving an inheritance that Harry the Narrator told us earlier is something we should pay attention to; a scene in movies that he hates like “the shots of the cook in The Hunt for Red October.” As Perry would rather not be involved, Harry can’t help but get to the bottom of it with apparent suicides and bodies showing up all around him. Plus, it may be his in with the dream girl who’s had a lifelong fixation on the pulpy detective stories they now seem to be emulating.

All is fine within the framework in spurts. Sometimes it’s pointing out its own clichés (especially the overburdening narrator), sometimes it’s just a banter-fest between the three leads. It’s mystery is complicated enough for any Raymond Chandler wannabe, but mostly in the details and not in their revelations which isn’t much different than say Riggs & Murtaugh putting the pieces together for a big action finale. Black, in his directorial debut, doesn’t concentrate on suspense and rather lets his own words drive the story. It all leads to a mish-mash of tone that keeps the audience off-base as to which highway we should be taking.

Kilmer hasn’t had this much with a role in years; Black’s dialogue leading way to the kind of cynical know-it-all that he once specialized in. The film is at its best with him trying to show Downey the ropes and calling him on the mistakes that just leads to more complications. Kilmer and Downey fall into their old routines like clockwork and it drives the movie when it paints itself into other routines to fall back on. Michelle Monaghan is sexy as the small town girl looking for a break – but the character is alternately the smartest person in the room and nothing more than a glamorized groupie.

Black has been genre-skewing all the way back to the Lethal Weapon franchise and only became more prevalent with The Last Boy Scout and The Long Kiss Goodnight. Kiss Kiss works on that level but is only half as clever as it thinks it is and finds itself settling into those patterns after a first half calling way too much attention to itself. By the time it gets into the darkest implications of P.I. noir and begins moralizing at the very end, it’s hard to take seriously and is wildly out of place with the lark we were being presented with. As a director, Black proves to still be just another snarky writer whose cleverness remains on the page and not behind the camera. He winds up sabotaging his own material when another director’s perspective could have brought some extra flash and more of an attitude that would have successfully meshed parody with the hallucinatory underbelly of pulp fiction. In other words – Hollywood.

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originally posted: 10/21/05 14:35:39
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Vancouver Film Festival For more in the 2005 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 FilmFest Kansas City For more in the 2005 FilmFest Kansas City series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Austin Film Festival For more in the 2005 Austin Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

2/14/14 MatthewThompsonDalldorf Clever and intense with some good laughs 4 stars
4/07/08 Jack Sommersby Overly self-conscious filled with uninteresting story and characters. 2 stars
3/24/08 ladavies It felt like the narration was pasted on at the last minute, but otherwise entertaining 3 stars
3/05/08 mr.mike Worth seeing but a bit too cutesy at times. 4 stars
5/17/07 ES couple of laughs, no hell 3 stars
3/30/07 fools♫gold Funny, finally funny, exceptionally funny, keeps you laughing, and short. 4 stars
3/26/07 Donny M Too good to put into words. 5 stars
1/03/07 Tom Very, very funny. The self referencial humour was clever! 5 stars
11/06/06 AJ Muller Cast is brilliant, script is stellar, Black/Downey/Kilmer/Monaghan absolutely ROCK! 5 stars
9/22/06 Alyssa Hale I hated it, couldn't watch more than 10 minutes of it. 1 stars
8/04/06 Indrid Cold Plays with Raymond Chandler plot and dialogue cliches to great effect. Quite entertaining. 4 stars
6/20/06 JH Great movie. Black humor, plot twists and chemistry. 5 stars
6/15/06 Agent Sands Kilmer & Downey are two of the most charming actors in cinema. 5 stars
6/15/06 Tom Kilmer and Downey were good together over narration worked and fixation on grammar was fun 4 stars
4/29/06 MP Bartley Brilliantly funny script never descends into smugness. Kilmer and Downey Jr are priceless. 5 stars
4/22/06 Aldo had its funny moments...but story could of been layed out better 3 stars
1/19/06 Don Paco Wickedly funny. Downey jr. is great! Bit too wacky at the end, but still a whole lot of fun 5 stars
11/18/05 Robert Braunfeld Lethal Weapon revisited Chemistry not there 3 stars
11/16/05 Erik Van Sant Absolutely the most entertaining and original film I've seen in years. 5 stars
11/04/05 Megan great movie 5 stars
11/03/05 Stephen P F*cking hilarious - just brilliant! 5 stars
10/12/05 Josh Swanson Funny flick, enjoyed it thoroughly. 4 stars
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  21-Oct-2005 (R)
  DVD: 13-Jun-2006



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