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Vince Wants to Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

Published November 15, 2005 in Movie Reviews
By Vince Palomarez | Images property of Warner Bros Pictures
Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
There was a time back in the late 80’s and early 90’s when action films were ruled by one man, Shane Black. He took the action genre to a whole new level by using a formula that combined the comedy of the “buddy cop” films with the gritty, over the top, action thrillers to create films like the Lethal Weapon series and The Last Boy Scout. His love of the old pulp fiction stories, dark wit and tendency to put his characters in the most awkward situations made you push the limits of “suspension of disbelief”, but always left you satisfied and chomping at the bit to see more. When his last film, The Long Kiss Goodnight, bombed at the box office, Black took some time away from the industry, leaving behind a bunch of imitators who never quite understood the genre as well as Black did. It took six years and the opportunity to work as a director for the first time for Shane Black to come back and he does so with guns blazing with his latest film, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang Movie Review

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang follows Black’s usual formula of placing two complete opposites together to solve a mystery (which usually involves a murder) while not trying to kill each other in the process. This time it’s a petty thief (Robert Downey Jr.), mistaken for an actor while fleeing a scene of a crime, who is brought to Los Angeles for a screen test and finds himself knee deep in a murder investigation along with a detective consultant to the stars (Val Kilmer) and his former high school crush (Michelle Monaghan). It may not be the most original story out there, but Black adds just enough to it to make it fresh and original…..well….as original as Hollywood can get.

The moment Harry makes his first mistake as narrator and stops the film to explain himself, you get the sense that this isn’t a normal film. Sure, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang can be too “smart” at times, but by doing this the film escapes most of the clichés that have left other films in this genre feeling stale and predictable. Black does a great job of escaping the predictability that has plagued other films by acknowledging all of its clichés and over the top moments. He understands his audience is smart and he’s letting you in on the joke rather than insult your intelligence. All this helps make up for a plot that gets a little too convoluted and confusing at times.

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang Val Kilmer and Robert Downey Jr. makes a hell of a team in Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
When it comes down to it, the main ingredient that makes Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang so great is the incredible performance and chemistry between Val Kilmer and Robert Downey Jr. After so many years of falling down and rebuilding his career due to drug problems, Robert Downey Jr. gives it another try and gives what has to be one of his best performances of the last few years. Even though Harry is supposed to be a bumbling idiot, Downey gives him enough charm and wit to make him cool and a character for audiences to care about. Whether it’s his reaction to finding a dead body in his shower or waking up in the back seat of a car doped on Demerol, Downey does all the little things to make you laugh even in the most uncomfortable of situations. Any other actor would probably go totally over the top, but Downey relies on the subtle things to make his character stand out and does so with incredible success. The same can be said for Val Kilmer’s performance as Gay Perry. You put anyone else in that role and odds are they would focus on the fact that Perry is gay and use that to get laughs. Kilmer on the other hand stresses how much of a hard ass (no pun intended) and serious individual Perry is and uses the gay part as the icing on the cake to get that extra laugh out of the audience.

Individual performances are great, but if you don’t have great chemistry between you’re leads, a film can totally fall apart. Thankfully there is no problem here. The moment Kilmer and Downey Jr’s characters first meet you get the sense that they’ve been life long friends. Each actor has their moment in the spotlight, but neither of them tries to steal it away from the other. Instead they do their best to make the other look like a million bucks and in doing so make the audiences experience and love for the characters grow deeper.

Working with a fraction of what the big films cost to make and with a cast of actors more recognized for their personal lives then their body of work, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is one of the coolest action films to come around in quite some time. While the story gets confusing at times and some situations seem a bit unbelievable, the chemistry of the leads as well as Shane Black’s superior knack for dialogue makes this movie a winner. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is a shot in the arm to a genre that was in desperate need of a wake up call. Let me be the first to say, Shane Black, welcome back.


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Vince Palomarez
Sources: Images property of Warner Bros Pictures

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