Excluding The Predator (what the hell was that?) Shane Black has been one of my favorite Hollywood writers, and I was super-excited when it was announced he was getting into the director’s chair for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
Set, like most of Black’s tales, at Christmas, this one is a slice of modern noir. Robert Downey Jr. plays Harry Lockhart a small time New York hood, who after a robbery goes badly and costs him his partner, ends up being mistaken for an actor and flown out to Los Angeles to shadow a local detective, Gay Perry (Val Kilmer) for a few days to get into the role.
Once there, he bumps into an old friend from his childhood, Harmony Faith Lane (Michelle Monaghan), and in typical Black scripted fashion, the trio find themselves wrapped up in a murder mystery, and while it plays with noir stereotypes, it also plays with narration, and occasionally a little meta.
The dialogue is whipsmart, and very funny. Pairing Kilmer and Downey together is brilliant, and the score by John Ottoman works perfectly, a swinging jazzy score that feels much like an updated take on the typical detective genre, with a 40s flavor.
Black doles out the clues, and the mystery and we all just settle in for the entertaining ride. Black seems to excel at the buddy-cop genre of writing, outrageous situations, and solid action filled climaxes. He also knows how to take all the tropes of the genre, twist them into something new but still recognizable in the way they interact with the story and the characters.
Funny, occasionally crass, and with a well thought out mystery that like all film, book and television mysteries start out as two, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a hoot to watch, and each time I view it, I find something I didn’t see before, catch a way a line is delivered, some piece of action in the background, and it makes for a whole new experience.
This is one of those films that I soon as I hear someone hasn’t seen it, I have to introduce them to, and it’s never failed to entertain those I recommend it to. It also readied Downey to take on the role of Tony Stark in the MCU.
I love pairing this one with The Nice Guys, and just settling in for great dialogue, solid action beats, and playing within the genre. And while I, like a number of fans, was surprised at how The Predator played out, I am eagerly awaiting to see what Black delivers next.
And if you haven’t seen Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, see the above paragraph, and pay attention to everything, laugh at the dialogue, and just revel in the layers that compose this film. Love this one!!