Friday, October 28, 2005

Kiss Kiss, Bang, Bang - Movie Review

Kiss Kiss, Bang, Bang - 2005

What to do with a movie that is too clever for its own good? Dislike it? Well, no. Love it? Certainly not. Recommend it to our legions of fans? That’s a tough decision. With Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, we found ourselves smiling uncontrollably at the smart dialogue and audacious first half, and then like a bucket of cold water thrown upon us after a three day bender, we were yanked unmercifully from our moviegoing daze and found ourselves checking our watches at the midpoint. Never a good sign.

The things we enjoyed most - sadly happened in the first ten minutes. From the cringe inducing childhood prank gone wrong opening sequence, to the James Bondian inspired opening credits (which for you know nothings includes the title itself) we thought we would be in for a wonderful ride. But like those haunted house rides to be found at neighborhood carnivals, we felt cheated upon release. The set-up is fairly simple, petty crook finds himself running from the police after an amateur heist that goes horribly amuck, straight into the arms of an open audition for a cop flick. He lands the audition due to his unintentional method appropriateness and finds himself in Hollywood, rubbing tanned elbows with the D-listers. Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer head the cast . . . please compose yourselves and no, we are not typing this in 1987. And for all its shortcomings and premature ejaculations, Downey and Kilmer are a treat to see on the big screen after both their careers took nose dives for various reasons. Newcomer, Michelle Monaghan, most recently seen in “North Country” plays the de rigeur neo-noir heroine to the former star duo. Miss Monaghan gamely gives the role her all, while never exactly setting the screen on fire. She should be proud of her work, but should not be clearing any space on her mantle for any acting awards. Ever. Hey, there’s always porn.

The film also features Corbin Bernsen. Now, we’ve gone and done it. You’ll never believe we’re not in 1987 now. Well, all we can say is that clearly we are in present day Hollywood, which you can tell from the incredibly snarky and postmodernish dialogue that is initially very entertaining but like most things postmodern, quickly derails itself due to its veneer only appeal and dog-chasing-its-tail attempts at one upping the previous scene.

This saddens us, since many of the jokes are quite good, and the director Shane Black seems to be reveling in his chop socky editing and Hitchcock meets Tarentino plot devices. Downey is truly one of the most underused actors of his generation. We suppose he was too busy snorting candle wax up his nostrils to worry about his career, and then watching Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp and Sean Penn earn Oscar nominations and accolades for their performances from his prison cell as he was blowing the guards in exchange for a pack of Luckies. More is the pity for us moviegoers, since we know from his very good turns in everything from “Less Than Zero” to his own Oscar nominated interpretation of the great Charlie in Richard Attenborough’s “Chaplin.” Val Kilmer is a bit more of a conundrum.

While we have genuine love for his thick lipped charm early in his career in such silly flicks as “Top Secret! and “Real Genius”, his own acting career never seemed to catch up to his tabloid fodder lifestyle. Even the master of overhyped success, Oliver Stone failed to find a suitable script for his most brilliant portrayal, as Jim Morrison in “The Doors.” It’s too bad, since Kilmer was perfect for the role, but we suppose throwing Meg Ryan into the mix doomed that movie to its ultimately deserved failure.
Back to “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” - we are hesitant to go into too much detail since this is a film that relies heavily on plot twists, complications, surprises, trick endings, we hope you’re getting the picture you mouthbreathers. And if you’re not, this might be the perfect movie for you, since the metafiction narration fairly leaps off the screen and jogs over to your seat to backhand you senseless with plot point clarifications. At least they are blessedly jaded as ourselves, and not just redundant and insulting to our collective intelligence. We understand that first time director Shane Black is most famous for penning “Lethal Weapon” and “Last Action Hero”. No wonder he’d been away from Tinsletown for a few years. We actually feel we should commend him more for not embarrassing himself completely with his feature film directorial debut. But sadly, he is merely rehashing more interesting work done by others. It is clear that all the folks responsible were dead set on entertaining us by throwing everything at us including the kitchen sink, sofa bed and tractor trailer. We won’t ask for their immediate arrest and execution since a few of the household goods did land on their appointed targets. It is simply a case of too much, too little, too meta for their own good. Still we will grin and toss off a hand wave to all concerned for their efforts.

So, in closing you could spend your hard earned pennies on worse films . . . just don’t start pointing the fingers at us if you go and emerge unsatisfied . . . Bless you all!

Written and Directed by Shane Black
Based in part on the novel by Brett Halliday

Robert Downey Jr. as Harry Lockhart
Val Kilmer as Gay Perry
Michelle Monaghan as Harmony Faith Lane
Corbin Bernsen as Harlan Dexter
Larry Miller as Dabney Shaw
Indio Falconer Downey as Harry Age 9

Cinematography by Michael Barrett
Costume Design by Christopher J. Kristoff
Film Editing by Jim Page
Original Music by John Ottman
Production Design by Aaron Osborne