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KISS KISS BANG BANG (2005 - R)

This brilliant Shane Black comedy features an average Joe-Schmoe who accidentally stumbles upon the Hollywood lifestyle.  While training to play a PI for his upcoming role, Harry Lockhart finds himself suddenly involved in a real-life crime case.  Gallivanting around the backwoods of Hollywood, Harry Lockhart does his best to snag his longtime love while keeping the skin on his back and his fingers on his hands.  Many a laugh will ensue. 

The cast includes: Val Kilmer, Corbin Bernsen, and Robert Downey Jr.

Written by: Brett Halliday (novel) and Shane Black (screenplay). Directed by: Shane Black.

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Genre: Comedy.

Tagline: Mystery.  Mayhem.  Madmen.  “Welcome to the party.”

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The film opens up with a very satiric film noir-meets-anime credit line: part James Bond, part the Grinch, part Nick at Night.  Pan to a very cynical, conspicuous looking Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.) who is perusing a recent LA birthday bash for former movie icon Harlan Dexter (Corbin Bensen).  While Harry enjoys disappointing the many a man-eater with his less-than-millionaire job title (sorry, no new gig offers here ladies), he skips back and forth between narrating the present, and narrating a character sketch of another film protagonist, miss Harmony Faith Lane (Michelle Monaghan). 

By way of irony and wicked sharp dialogue Harry traces the roots of a typical small-town girl making her way to Hollywood via naïve dreams of the coast and the romantic city of LA.  Of course, it’s only a matter of time before she turns as jaded and beguiled as the rest of the mass of wannabe actresses-turned part-time socialites. Which leaves audiences currently observing Harmony passed out on a sofa, reading Johnny Gossamer crime novels during Dexter’s big bash.

Meanwhile, more witty banter ensues and Harry is introduced to PI “Gay” Perry (Val Kilmer), his agent’s personal detective.  In an attempt to whip Harry into shape for his upcoming role as a detective- a role which he scored, by the way, in lieu of evading police after a robbery chase via crashing a casting call and pouring out his heart to directors (who were taken aback by his amazingly “genuine Improv”)- in his first film. 

Between crashing and burning on his first attempt to reunite with former high school friend and “dream girl,” Harmony, Harry takes to tagging along with Perry and playing sidekick PI. 

While Harry scavenges the muddy back lots and lakes of outer L.A.- specifically, Big Bear- a sudden real-life crime ensues.  During yet another witty banter session involving the wily ways of fictitious crime novel detective Johnny Gossamer, and the origins of the name “faggot gun,” Perry and Harry are cut off by a car rocketing into a nearby lake, with the corpse of a dead girl locked inside.  Conceding to the impulse of “good guy gag,” Harry and Perry jump into the swamp and drag the “lady from the lake”…only to discover that she’s not only dead, but sporting a bullet hole perfectly placed betwixt her forehead…so, you’re telling me its homicide. 

So, dynamic duo Perry and Harry attempt to evade police investigation all the while cat fighting over recent loss property, such as the prized “faggot gun.”  Bad news strikes again when a police officer phones Harry and informs him that Harmony is dead.  So…why the heck is she at his doorstep within the next few hours? 

And, complicating matters, why does the dead body, seem to be connected to Harmony’s missing, and presumed dead, sister?  More importantly, why and how the hell did the corpse make its way into Harry’s bathroom?   As Perry and Harry brainstorm over the recent discovery of 2 corpses in 3 hours- that’s definitely not normal, right?-  they first attempt to move the corpse and dispose of it on a nearby alley. 

Once local detectives identify the body as Veronica Dexter: the late daughter of notorious Harlan Dexter, Perry and Harry attempt to deduce the connection between Harmony’s sister, Veronica, and a precarious girl with pink hair.  And of course, one can’t help but overlook the incessant references to super agent, albeit fictitious, Johnny Gossamer, which Perry and Harry soon connect to none other than Harlan Dexter, who once played Gossamer in a Hollywood blockbuster.  Taking the recent death of Dexter’s wife, the sudden availability of her very lucrative trust funds, and the hasty reunion of his longtime estranged, now dead, daughter into context, Harry and Perry slowly pen Dexter as the primary suspect.

Meanwhile Perry leaks the truth to Harmony that Harry is, in fact, not a private detective.  In an attempt to salvage any chance of maintaining a friendship, or, hopefully more, with Harmony, Harry makes his way over to Harmony’s house to inform her of his latest lead.  Harry voluntarily divulges the information, not before Harmony slams the door and dismembers Harry’s finger. 

Now high on Demerol, Harry assumes the role of PI, however illegitimate, and together he and Perry connect Harmony’s sister to Dexter.  Apparently, 20 years ago Harmony told her sister that Johnny Gossamer was her real father- in an attempt to protect her from darker days at home with daddy.  Now, 20 years later, Harmony’s sister comes out here looking for “Johnny Gossamer,” played by none other than Harlan Dexter.

While Harry and Perry do their best to evade Dexter’s goons, Harry attempts to save what’s left of his decapitated finger while seeking vengeance for dead girls with pink hair.  Meanwhile a crazy car chase and some electric shock therapy ensues while Harry and Perry dashingly save their damsel in distress.  But what of Dexter’s daughter, the pink haired girl, and Harmony’s sister?  Only witty narration from none other than Harry Lockhart will tell.  For your viewing pleasure, we suggest renting the film and seeing the cracked-out case for yourself.  This really is one wild ride into the spectacularly seedy backside of Hollywood:  it’s the film noir, black comedy version of Nathaniel West’s “Day of the Locust.”

Based on the Brett Halliday novel, “Bodies Are Where You Find Them,” Shane Black’s satiric “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” is wickedly smart, and gut-busting funny.  The dialog is nonstop, knock-you-over, dead pan meets irony.  In fact, Shane Black is so good this film possibly transcends if not definitely lingers on the line of “meta –ironic.”  Yes, its that good.

It’s genre-bending:  part thriller, part noir, part comedy, part drama…okay maybe not part drama.  Also the humor is constantly oscillating between dry, deadpan, and sheer wit, subtle hilarities evoked by body language or the manipulation of words, and the perfect timing and delivery of certain clichés.  In fact, the whole film is one big hilarious cliché:  it is a film composed of, on, and about the spectacle that is the allusion of Hollywood.  And, somehow, Black manages to make the seedy backstreets of Hollywood more spectacular than its forefront of glitzy lights and iconic imagery.  Arguably there’s more substance in the shadows.  Black exploits and capitalized on the humanity, and the stupidity of humanity, as they lay in waiting for their big “break”; passing their time in a multitude of soul-stripping, back-alley ways.  It’s brillian!.  You’ll relish, re-watch, and reminisce long after.  And don’t forget the interminable amount of one-liners packed into the non-stop, bullet-fast dialogue. 

As far as acting goes… it will blow your mind.  Robert Downey appears onscreen as your typical jaded, cynical guy (a role he’s always played well): slightly shady, slightly empathetic, slightly “help me please,” poor puppy-dog.   But upon opening his mouth, its non-stop entertainment from there on:  he is in a word, electrifying.  

Meanwhile, enter Val Kilmer, expected to play a hard ass cop or big-time hero.  His role?  A witty, testosterone ridden, gay PI.  He’s brilliant, and together he and Downey deliver far beyond what one may have first expected from either.  Michelle Monaghan joins in the fun and together the Mod Squad busts your gut time and time again.  It isn’t every day that you see the whimsical waif hold her own with two big time actors.  Monaghan, like Kilmer and Downey, doesn’t disappoint. 

Cinematographically the film is nuanced with the multiple shades of dark and light: crime thriller meets fairytale.  There’s hints of the mythical (turned sour), the fantastic, the spectacle, the noir, all exploited in the acute choice of sets and costumes: it’s backstage Hollywood holding their breath in mass crowds, awaiting recognition among the sea of millions.  The soundtrack is perfectly paced with the film, particularly the choice of classic jazz riffs float through the PI scenes, appropriately underscoring their satiric notes. 

All in all, “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” is an overlooked gem.  It’s a priceless rarity among the many failed attempts at comedic genius produced in the better part of the past decade or so.  As one critic appropriately notes, "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" is a witty and intelligent film. Thanks to its director, Shane Black, it's a film to be treasured.”

“Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” was the proud recipient of 4 awards and 12 nominations.  Among its awards was the Empire Award (UK) for Best Thriller, San Diego Film Critics Society Award for Best Screenplay (Shane Black), the Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Overlooked Film of the Year, and the Satellite Award for Best Supporint Actor (Val Kilmer).  “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” was nominated for the Satellite Awards Outstanding Actor Award (Robert Downey Jr.),  London Critics Circle Award for Screenwriter of the Year (Shane Black), the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Film, and the Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Comedy.

Main Characters:

Robert Downey Jr. plays Harry Lockhart.

Val Kilmer plays “gay” Perry, big-time PI consultant.  Oh yeah, and he’s gay.

Michelle Monaghan plays Harmony Faith Lane.

Corbin Bernsen plays Harlan Dexter.

Memorable Quotes:

Harry:  Maybe you’re wondering how I got here.  Maybe not.  Maybe you wonder how silly putty picks shit up off of comics.  Whatever.  Anyways, I don’t see another narrator anywhere around so pipe down.

Harry:  Harmony Faith Lane was your typical L.A. girl, which of course means she wasn’t from LA…Like most soon-to-be-fucked up girls, Harmony was wicked smart.  Of course, credit where credit’s due, she had a terrific mentor…

Harry:  Johnny spoke from the pages of cheap paperbacks, and told of a promised land known as the coast, and a magical city known as Los Angeles.

Oh shit!  I skipped something…f*c% this is bad narrating; like my dad telling a joke:  oh wait, back up, I forgot to tell you the cowboy rode a blue horse.  F*%$!  Anyway, I don’t know if you wanna see it now but here’s the F&^ck*n robot stuff for your viewing pleasure.  Can I say f*7^ anymore?

Harry: You know what, you better be her doctor.  Walk away, don’t think.  Just do it.

Random Guy: What are you, her brother or something?  Its none of your business man.  I will “mess” you up.

Harry: No, you’ll try, and that little experiment will end in tears my friend. So again, for the cheap seats, do not think, walk the “f*ck away, or lets you and me go outside right now.  It’s past my bedtime.  Make a choice.

Harry:  Still gay?

Perry:  Me? No.  I’m knee deep in pussy, I just like the name so much I can’t get rid of it. 

Harry:  Okay, I apologize.  That is a terrible scene.  Its like, why was that in the movie?  Gee, you think maybe it’ll come back later, maybe, maybe! …hmm, wonder where the climax will happen!

Harmony: The worse thing though, is she’s 35 and still trying to act…

Harry: May I ask how old you are?

Harmony: 34.  I’m a baby.

Harmony:  I left while you still had your tongue down her throat Harry.

Harry:  You did?

Harmony: Yeah!

Harry:  Oh, God!  No, wrong throat, wrong girl, that’s bad.

Harmony:  Yeah, that’s bad.  You got 10 seconds Harry.

Harry:  Oh, God, pressure, pressure, pressure!  Okay…I know this is not normal, and its outrageous.  And I’m not saying that I’m pretending to be normal.

Perry:  Look up the word “idiot” in the dictionary and you know what you’ll find?

Harry:  A picture of me?

Perry:  No!  The definition of the word idiot, which you f*%$ing are!

Harry:  These lessons suck.  I quit.  This is not being a detective.  Corpses floating in lakes, people kissing people, this is wrong.  Okay?  This is every shade of wrong.

Perry:  Sorry I f*%$ed you over.

Harry:  No problem.  Don’t quit your gay job.

Harry: What is it, out here, with these women?...These are damaged goods, every one of them, from way back.  I’m telling you, you take a guy who sleeps with a 100 women a year, go into his childhood, dollars to doughnuts it’s relatively unspectacular.  Now, you take one of these gals, sleeps with 100 guys a year, and I bet you if you look in their childhood there’s something rotten in Denver.

Harmony:  Denmark.

Harry:  That too!

Harry:  I mean its literally like someone took America by the East Coast and shook it and all the normal girls managed to hang on.

Harry:  And you, how ‘bout it filmgoer?  Have you solved the case of the, the dead people in LA? 

Perry:  You don’t get it do you?  This isn’t good cop-bad cop, this is “Fag and New Yorker.”  You’re in a lot of trouble.