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"Have you solved this yet?"
on 15 June 2006
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang falls into the category of one of those movies that you just want to love. Débuting to rave reviews when it was in theatres, the film purports to be a gritty re-imagining of the Los Angeles noir film, a modern day spoof of the hard-boiled detective genre. And in all fairness, the film does deliver up some irreverent fun, and some sly, dark humor, but the wacky voice-overs, like so much else, proves just too tiresome.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang also has a plot that is just so convoluted. By the end of the film you will neither care nor want to know who and what the body count is. It's not that director Shane Black isn't stylish and inventive - the film is gorgeously shot and the production design unsurpassed - but Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang ultimately turns into a film that is too flagrantly pleased with itself, so smugly love with its own cleverness, that the jokes wear thin long before the movie has ended.
Robert Downey Jr. stars as Harry Lockhart, the narrator and small-time from New York City who after a spoiled robbery runs away from the cops into an audition and is mistaken for an actor. He winds up in Los Angeles for a possible acting gig as a private detective on a pulp movie. The studio teams Harry with the tough private eye Gay Perry (Val Kilmer), nicknamed "Gay" because of his sexual orientation.
Harry also hooks up with Harmony Lane (Michelle Monaghan), who at sixteen left her small Indiana town to make her fame as an actress in Hollywood. He had a crush on her back then and her arrival in the City of Angeles is a portent for the fact that two unrelated young girls have just been murdered and one of their bodies shows up the a lake.
The plot becomes increasingly hyper-complex, filled with shootings, corpses, and references to old-fashioned crime fiction novels. It's as though Harry is almost tempting the viewers with all the devilish plot machinations, asking us whether we have solved it yet. Robert Downey Jr. is indeed a great actor and here he looks hotter than ever, and while his character is momentarily fun, after a while, his voice over narration and silly antics just become irritating.
Los Angeles viewers will certainly get a kick out of some of the stunning location work - particularly the use of Downtown and Macarthur Park for some of the main action scenes. But the violence eventually comes across as rather over-baked and the joke-fuelled and casual camaraderie between Harry and Perry often seems forced and over-written.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang isn't offensive even though it's quite violent. Indeed it has a cuteness and hippness that a lot of viewers are going to like. The problem is that it's just trying too hard to be in vogue. By the third act, I'd had enough and fast-forwarded it with the subtitles on to see how it ended. Even talented actors like Downey and Kilmer couldn't save it from wallowing in its own showiness and meaninglessness. Mike Leonard June 06.