Comedy starring Robert Downey Jr. Harry Lockhart (Downey Jr.) is basically a decent guy. Sure, he's a petty thief who skates through life on a shaky cocktail of dog-eared charm and cockeyed optimism, but he wants to do the right thing. He just doesn't know how, exactly. Harry's perpetual bad luck takes a turn for the better when he and his partner are doing some after-hours Christmas 'shopping' at a New York City toy store and the security alarm breaks up the party. In making his frantic getaway from the cops, Harry inadvertently stumbles into an audition for a Hollywood detective movie, and faster than you can say Jack Robinson, the producer flies him to Los Angeles for a screen test. Thrust into the cutthroat world of L.A.'s pros, cons, losers and wannabes, Harry is teamed with tough-guy private eye Perry van Shrike (Val Kilmer), AKA 'Gay Perry', to prepare him for his screen test.
With smart scribe Shane Black both penning the script and behind the camera, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
was never going to be ordinary. Yet its far better than you could have hoped for, marrying in comedy, action, a bit of a detective work and a constant, knowing wink to the audience.
Cruelly underperforming at the box office, the film finds Robert Downey Jr as a small time thief, who quite literally finds himself stumbling into the world of acting. With a potential role as a private detective in the offing, his agent arranges for him to spend his time with private investigator Val Kilmer. All is fairly light, until a dead body crosses their paths and a genuine mystery presents itself.
And that then sets the scene for a pacey, energetic film spearheaded by a trio of strong performances. The main plaudits should go to the interplay between Kilmer and Downey Jr, who both eat up their respective best roles in years. Meeting them head on though is Michelle Monaghan, who plays a wannabe actress with a talent for fast talking, and looks that Downey Jrs Harry cant help but resist.
Now its fair to argue that the setup itself doesnt feel particularly fresh. Yet the execution most certainly is, with Black savvy enough to know when to avoid the genre clichés, and when to drive his script right through the middle of them with a great big grin on his face. Grounded by a splendidly witty narration from Downey Jr, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is, at the point this review is being written, an underappreciated gem. Hopefully time, and DVD, will see it right.--Simon Brew