Monday, April 26, 2010

“Wow, I feel sore. I mean physically, not like a guy who's angry in a movie in the 1950's.”

I really wish I could be clever with this intro, but 2005’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, a black comedy/homage to film noir plots and tropes starring Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer and written & directed by a guy who co-created Lethal Weapon. I mean, I’m sold.

Well, a petty thief in New York stumbles into an acting audition while trying to avoid the police and ends up doing well enough to get taken out to Hollywood, where his new agent hooks him up with a real life detective to show him the ropes of the business. Then the two stumble into several murders and our hero tries to figure out what’s going on while also reconnecting with an old flame from high school. Did I mention this takes place around Christmas? And that doesn’t even begin to cover what happens in this movie.

Harry Lockhart: Robert Downey Jr. is awesome in this movie. He’s the narrator, but an incredibly self-aware one who knows he’s not very good at it. He’s also kind of a big screwup in general here and just keeps getting the crap kicked out of him throughout the movie.

Gay Perry: Val Kilmer is the badass of the film, no question. Perry’s an actual private investigator who’s life is quite boring under normal circumstances. Until Harry drags him along into a messed up world of twists and turns. Perry doesn’t really like Harry. At all, and the banter between them is outstandingly amusing. Also, Perry’s gay, which isn’t a surprise.

Harmony Faith Lane: Michelle Monaghan is an old friend from Harry’s home town who left to become an actress (and get away from her terrible father). Harmony’s an interesting character. Deeply flawed, but incredibly likable. And I’m not complaining about the outfits she wears. No sir.

Harlan Dexter: Corbin Bernsen plays a washed up actor who went on to become an entrepreneur. Its his house where the beginning party scene takes place and where Harry meets all the major characters.

Shane Black, in his directorial debut, and Michael Barrett was director of photography, and I’ve got to say, the movie looks good. Slickly presented and incredibly well lit. Its not at all noir in a visual sense, but the film does have a moody style to it when its time to shift gears into some pretty serious scenes. Best scene is probably the one where Harry shoots a guy for the first time. Its played completely straight and the build up to it is just so incredibly well done from both a character development and audience empathy standpoint.

Shane Black on script duty, and sort-of, kind-of based on a novel by Brett Halliday called “Bodies Are Where You Find Them.” The film oozes wit and charm from every pore, and the nature of being a hard-boiled detective parody means you have to pay attention to what’s going on in order to understand the movie by the end. Insanely quotable and both irreverent and loving of the standard film noir tropes, Black’s script just breezes by effortlessly. The movie also breaks its sections into chapters named after Raymond Chandler books. Not bad for the American commando who got killed first in Predator.

Original music by John Ottman and a bunch of mostly-Christmas themed songs. There’s an overall jazzy feel to the soundtrack with the occasional other sounds, and the movie sounds great.

This movie blew out the back of my skull from the sheer force of awesomeness. Seriously. If I do another “biggest surprises” at the end of 2010, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a definite contender for the top three, easily. Find this movie and watch it.

Not that good of a trailer, actually, but you get the basic idea.

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