Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

by Alan Rapp on November 11, 2005

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
  • IMDB: link


“This isn’t good cop / bad cop.
This is fag and New Yorker.”

Any movie that contains an argument over the phone about why someone has urinated on a dead body he finds in his hotel room shower deserves some attention.  Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is one of the most entertaining movies of the year.  Part Hollywood satire and part dime-store novel this is great fun with terrific performances from Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer.  Simply put folks, this is the best comedy of 2005.

Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.) is a small time thief who stumbles into an audition for a detective show while fleeing from the police.  Whisked away to Hollywood Harry meets Perry (Val Kilmer) a gay detective who is the consultant to the show.  At a party Harry also runs into Harmony Lane (Michelle Monaghan) the girl who got away so many years ago.

So far sounds like a pretty normal film right?  Well here’s where things start to get interesting.  Larry takes Harry on a stakeout to teach him more about detective work, but unfortunately they run into a car with a dead body.  For reasons to difficult to describe here the two abandon the body only for Larry to find it in his hotel room shower early the next morning.

It seems Harmony has a problem too with her sister, who has come to town looking for her real father (whom she believes is an actor from a movie that shot in their town long ago).  She has good reason to want to escape her home and find a more suitable father figure than the one she has known.  Problem is she turns up dead in an apparent suicide.  Things get complicated as both cases start to fit together and turn out to be more and less than they appear.

The movie is told from Harry’s perspective who acts as the narrator of the piece.  Downey has terrific fun with the character that should in no way be as lovable as he makes him appear on screen.  Kilmer is perfect in the odd role as the hardboiled gay detective working for Hollywood.  The two of them have an onscreen chemistry that just hits all the beats in every line of every joke.

There are wonderful jibes at Hollywood and the absurdity of films but the heart of the film is inspired by and pokes fun at the pulp detective stories in old dime-store novels.  The film also captures the feel of the film noir dialogue “she answered the door with nothing but the radio on,” while still poking fun at the genre.

The film moves seamlessly from both clever and raucous humor to drama to mystery to suspense and back again.  There also a direct tie-in to the pulp detective Jonny Gossamer who’s books Harmony has read since she was a child.  The events of the novels – two different mysteries, one simple one complex, that converge in bloodshed – start to come true before Harry’s eyes.

Every frame of this movie is a treasure.  The movie starts out with Downey’s narration at a Hollywood party, but this isn’t your typical narration.  Here Downey’s self deprecating humor is on full blast as he tells the story of these strange and improbable events.  The jokes just keep flying and that’s saying something for a film that deals with as much death as this one does.  Part State and Main and part The Big Sleep this is a one of kind film that entertains from beginning to end.

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