Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is one of my favourite films (I know, another one!). It’s also, technically, a Christmas film (like EVERY Shane Black film), so by that logic it must also be my favourite Christmas film….Okay no its not, as it’s not a film I associate strongly with Christmas, like Home Alone or Die Hard. But it is an underrated classic, it is Christmassy enough, and it’s a film I can ramble on about its awesomeness for a post. So here I go.
Now the film itself is a pulpy Neo-noir mystery, which follows a petty crook played by a pre Iron Man Robert Downy Jr, and a badass gay Private-eye played by post Batman and relevance Val Kilmer, who are forced to work together to solve a classic and very compelling murder mystery in LA.
Now based on that description the film could really be anything, from hard edged thriller, to straight to DVD action flick. But like most Shane Black pictures it’s one of my favourite genres, outrageously dark comedy, with some of that best pitch black humor this side of In Bruges (which would actually make a damn fine double feature) and it is also gleefully Meta. It turns the classic hard boiled narration into a rambling fourth wall demolishing spiel delivered by whom else but Downy, who spends much of the film deconstructing film narrative and murder mystery tropes, in an enjoyably if sometimes too smugly, nit-picky and self-referential way.
But the heart of the film, what really makes it tick, is the razor sharp, character driven, machine gun dialogue. In a world, of Tarantino and Brother’s Coen, this is one of the sharpest scripts in cinema. There is not a minute that goes by, where a clever bit of word play or a visual gag or a marriage of both isn’t being pulled off. And it’s not just a series of funny but generic one-liners that could be said by anyone in anything, the comedy is pulled from its characters, from their plight and problems, and walks of life. To laugh with them and at them, is to get to know them.
And there are characters beyond Downy and Kilmer…well character. With most of the cast ranging from two note Hench-men and campy as hell villains, the only other big character is Michelle Monaghan (one of the most drop dead gorgeous women ever). The fem fatale of the film, who really isn’t in anyway, but is actually the ditsy heart of the flick, adding the much needed warmth and tonal levity to this dark and funny tale of murder and sexual abuse….yup. Whose dynamite chemistry with Downy not only helps ground both characters and gets the plot moving, but will make you wish she’d pop up in a Marvel film just so you can see them bounce off each other again.
Now this may be hard to hear, but as great as Downy and Monaghan are…this is Kilmer’s film. He is pitch perfect as the aforementioned badass gay Private-eye, known as, what else, Gay Perry. Now this is a 2005 film, so the handling of his gay character isn’t perfect, my biggest issue being how other characters overreact a bit too much to his gayness (though in funny ways). But his character itself is one of the best in fiction; because despite the name, it doesn’t define him. He’s a tough, foul mouthed, no nonsense talking, gun toting, sassily witted, motherfucking pimp, who also happens to be gay. And it’s not just shoved to the side either; it’s just one part of a whole character, who steals scenes like Robert Downy Jr steals hearts.
Oh and the films like set at Christmas and stuff, and there’s like fairy lights everywhere and Christmas parties and tings. It’s a Shane Black film. He even made Iron Man a Christmas film!
But It’s movies like this along with other Downy classics like, Wonder Boys, A Scanner Darkly, Zodiac, and the very good A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, that still have me convinced that Robert Downy Jr did his best work pre Iron Man (not to knock it), when he was exiled from Hollywood (you know because of drugs), and was trying to crawl his way back in. And I wish he would go back to doing smaller more interesting films, than just the Marvel flicks; hell just films more interesting than The Judge. But I doubt he ever will, with everything Marvel still happening, the piles of money just his goatee is worth, and his recent comments about his hatred towards indie films. So I won’t hold my breath.