My Favorite Films of the Last Decade #19

Perry: You don’t get it, do you? This isn’t “good cop, bad cop.” This is fag and New Yorker. You’re in a lot of trouble.

19. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) – Dir. Shane Black

Forgive me for stating the obvious; I love this movie.

When I heard that Robert Downey, Jr. and Val Kilmer were starring together in a neo-noir, pseudo-buddy-cop, black comedy written & directed by the creator of Lethal Weapon, I was sold. I went into the theater thinking I knew exactly what I was going to get. And then Kiss Kiss Bang Bang totally surprised me.

Lethal Weapon is a funny movie, action packed, with a very dynamic energy. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is so much more than that, trading explosions & spectacle for dark, wry humor & witty banter aplenty, while keeping the same dynamic energy. It’s a film with a pulse, a rhythmic tempo propelled, in particular, by Robert Downey, Jr.’s manic, motor-mouthed Harry Lockhart. It’s also got an amazingly convoluted storyline, which is why it’s only number nineteen on my list, but it’s still great.

It breaks down something like this: mistaken for an actor, petty thief Harry Lockhart is brought to LA to screen test for the lead role of a detective in a big budget Hollywood blockbuster. In preparation for the role, Harry is paired with Perry, a private detective/consultant, for detective lessons, during which they stumble upon a murder, Harry pretends to be a real detective, and comic neo-noir hi-jinks ensue.

Kilmer plays the sardonic private detective, affectionately referred to as “Gay” Perry, and before you ask:

Harry: Still gay?
Gay Perry: Me? No, I’m knee-deep in pussy. I just like the name so much I can’t get rid of it.

Downey and Kilmer have wonderful chemistry, playing off of each other very nicely. Their rapid-fire tete-a-tete would more often than not have me in stitches. They’re clearly having fun working together and their enthusiasm is contagious, making it hard not to like this movie. Michelle Monaghan is also quite wonderful as Harry’s dream-girl, the aspiring actress Harmony Faith Lane:

Harry: You remember the one I said that got away, yeah well that one was her. It all came flooding back how I was the one she confided in, the one she trusted, meanwhile she was doing every other guy in school. It was the first time I felt it, how pitying someone and wanting to fuck them can get all tangled up in your head… overwhelming sadness, meanwhile you’ve got a Rodney. Is that sick? I think… yeah… I think that’s sick…

I could really just sit here and continue quoting the movie, but I don’t want to give too much away. Shane Black really seems to have a knack for the tough-guy (and gal) noir banter and he’s done a masterful job of making a comic homage to the film noir of the 40s, which were, in and of themselves, also pretty convoluted at times. (During the production of The Big Sleep director Howard Hawks and writer William Faulkner were so confused by the plot that they had to wire Raymond Chandler, the author of the novel, to ask him who killed the chauffeur. Chandler replied, “Damned if I know.”)

Check it out.

The trailer’s below, but like many trailers it barely gives you an idea of how good the movie really is, gets the tone completely wrong, and kinda gives away a bit too much. So, I’d advise you to skip the trailer and just see the movie.

5 responses to “My Favorite Films of the Last Decade #19

  1. This is the film that should have rekindled Downey Jr.’s career but oh well it happened later anyways. Criminally under-seen. Great chemistry and very very funny.

    I’m not a big fan of Monaghan in this (she is smoking hot though). I think it does lose itself a little in the final act trying to spin too many plates and the meta-narration disappears when I wanted it to stick around.

    Kind of like Hot Fuzz (man that film keeps coming up lately) where it sort of becomes what it is referencing but this one was better at pretending than executing.

    Still great little gem of a film that more people need to see.

    • Saying that it is “better at pretending than executing” implies that the film was trying to be the films it was comically sending up, when it wasn’t, and you do it a disservice to say so. Also, the phrase “great little gem of a film” is kinda condescending.

  2. It’s meant to be a little condescending. It is a movie I like a lot (enough to own) but it has its flaws so I won’t say it’s a “great big masterpiece” when I think it is more of a small triumph with a lot to like.

  3. Nathan Ayling

    I was always taken with the simple but riviting gun battle at the end. Downey is not a pistol samurai in any way but is able to dispense the baddies in a very straight forward point and shoot manner. He applies no cunning gymnastics he just happens to pull the trigger before all the other guys do. It’s a fish out of water action sequence.

  4. Pingback: Top Twenty Films of the Decade – Recap | Shooting the Script

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