Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” contains all the elements of a great movie. It is smart, funny, suspenseful, romantic, dramatic, well written and full of pure cinematic delight.
Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.,) narrator, who talks directly to the audience, is a petty thief who stumbles into an audition for a detective movie while running away from police through the streets of New York after an attempted robbery. He is then unintentionally, yet willingly, flown to Los Angeles for a screen test.
The charming, yet unlucky Lockhart is teamed up with his polar opposite, Gay Perry (Val Kilmer,) a tough and ruthless private detective who was hired by a movie producer to help Lockhart prepare for his role.
They run into Lockhart’s childhood friend Harmony Faith Lane (Michelle Monaghan,) an aspiring actress, who needs Lockhart’s help (thinking he is a real detective) to solve the mysterious death of her sister. Little did Lockhart and Perry know they would be in a real-life murder mystery that would lead the three of them into a series of unexpectedly dangerous events.
Dead bodies are discovered, one of which was hidden and then resurfaced. Things start to take a turn for the worse and Lockhart tries to convince Perry to stay on the case with him.
In his directorial debut, Shane Black (“Lethal Weapon,”) who also wrote this whimsical satire, modernizes pulp fiction.
“Directing is very social and it can be enormous fun, particularly when you have actresses and actors like Michelle, Robert, and Val,” Black said in a teleconference with Monaghan, Downey Jr. and Kilmer.
Both Downey Jr. and Kilmer fit into their roles with ease giving off seemingly effortless performances that equated to great chemistry on screen.
“I studied very hard, but (with Robert,) it’s a gift within,” Kilmer said. “I don’t know why we never worked together before.”
Downey Jr. said his relationship with Kilmer felt as though they knew each other their entire lives.
“He’s so endearing and he’s so brilliant and educated and artistically inclined,” Downey Jr. said. “I’ve been around for a long time and I’ve always wondered when I was going to meet the real deal. That’s Val K.”
Kilmer, who is known for more dramatic roles, said he enjoyed playing the role and that he would like to play more comedic characters.
“I’ve been looking to do a comedy for years and have been unlucky,” Kilmer said. “Either (I) wanted it and they wouldn’t give it to me or I couldn’t find one that was stimulating.”
Black said that after seeing the film completed he could not imagine the characters being played by other actors.
“When (Downey Jr.) read the lines for the first time, it felt like I typed them into his mouth,” Black said. “When we hired (Kilmer) I didn’t know what it would look like or what we’d get. I just knew it would be great.”
“These guys are indelibly stamped on my brain as representing the characters,” Black said. “I think it was a wonderful symbiosis. Everyone fit like a glove.”
With a $15 million budget, “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” has the feel of an independent film, but is also of blockbuster quality based on its big-name actors.
“Sometimes less money means fewer limitations because there are fewer people scrutinizing it and you’re more able to take risks,” Black said.
“Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” fits into its own category of comedy film noir, while combining wit and drama successfully.
The film has a complex plot that leads the audience to a simple ending, going back to the idea that people are generally good.
It is a very refreshing and fun film to watch.
Mona Karaguozian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.