From The Archives: KISS KISS BANG BANG (2005).

Posted: September 11, 2011 in Action., Comedy, Film Noir, Los Angeles, Movies (K), New York, Pretty Girls

#7.  Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

This is the last of the great Los Angeles movies on my list, from a guy who knows a fair amount about Los Angeles.  Shane Black had a hand in the writing of many of the action films of my youth – Predator, Lethal Weapon, The Monster Squad, The Last Boy Scout, and Last Action Hero.  Then he went away for a while.  When he came back, he brought Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer, and this movie, some kind of weird blend of action movie, detective flick, and romantic comedy.

Downey plays a petty New York thief who hides out in Los Angeles, in a strange turn of events receiving a mentor in the form of Kilmer’s private investigator.  Together they get wrapped up in a comically complicated murder investigation/ missing-person case, and Downey’s character provides a sarcastic meta-voiceover throughout.  The cinematography by Michael Barrett is colorful and lively, and the playful score by John Ottman merits mention also.  This movie was obviously a labor of love.

Forget High Fidelity or Gladiator or Anchorman or BoratKiss Kiss Bang Bang is the stealth choice for most quotable movie of the decade, it’s easily the most gay-friendly action film ever made (Kilmer’s character is openly, belligerently gay), and it’s even somewhat affecting emotionally.  There was something sad about two fallen movie stars teaming up in a fantastic movie that so few people saw in theaters.

With Robert Downey Jr., the story would seem to have a happy ending, since a few years later he played Iron Man and became one of the most famous stars on the planet, although Val Kilmer seems to be continuing his voyage into the wilderness.  He still pops up all over the place, but it doesn’t look like he’s about to get his second chance at wearing superhero tights.  But for a moment there, their paths crossed, and it was a wonderful match-up.  Their banter is traffic-camera quick, knowing, and hilarious.

Extra credit for Michelle Monaghan (most recently seen in Source Code) in the most lovable female role of the decade, by far, as a failed actress who becomes a third partner to the two main dicks. She’s elusive, sarcastic, flighty, gutsy, and totally crush-worthy.  If only more screenwriters would write female roles as interesting as this one, then the critics would stop going on and on about how today’s movies are crap compared to the films of the 1930s.

If you haven’t seen this movie yet, go fix that.  It’s a Christmas movie, but you can watch it anytime, really.  I do expect royalties from Shane Black though – I have been promoting this movie tirelessly since 2005, and besides, I guarantee he overheard me and my buddies playing the that-guy-looks-almost-exactly-like-that-famous-person “Native American Joe Pesci” game one night in a bar and threw that in the movie as a bonding experience between two characters.  It’s fun, and it’s brilliant!

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