“…what I would call a modern classic.”
It’s Christmas! Well, not really but it is the perfect time for me to kick off “Not Really Christmas Movie Month”. Well really it’s half a month, but “Not Really Christmas Movie Half-Month” doesn’t really roll off the tongue.
Last night I watched Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and I had honestly forgotten how brilliant that film is. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a film by writer/director Shane Black and it follows Harry Lockhart, a crook who is thrust into the world of Hollywood glitz and glamour. To prepare him for his role, Harry’s producer sends him to “detective lessons” with Perry, the resident private eye. Harry soon finds out that being a detective isn’t all it’s cut out to be when he and Perry find themselves in the middle of a very confusing, and very dangerous, case.
There is not one thing that I dislike about Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. The film manages to be so different from anything I’ve seen, and yet it feels so familiar. The movie starts off with its take on having a narrator. Not only is this something that is not really present in many films today, but it is used to both get us familiar with the main character, as well as brilliantly inject comedy into the film. And the narration is not over-used throughout the film either. But it’s not just the narration that has jokes, almost every single scene in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is enough to make me almost wet myself laughing. The story is not inherently funny, but the away that it is presented makes it hilarious.
A large part of the films charm comes from the characters. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, despite its outrageous plot, has some of the most realistic characters I’ve ever seen. Never once did I feel that what I was watching was a cookie-cutter display of characters, because they all felt so real. No character is perfect, but they all manage to get by (which is really all anyone can hope for). The dialogue is snappy, but the characters are also scared, and understandably so. Even for Perry, the veteran private investigator, the case gets too real at times.You also get some very real emotions from Harry as he is working through his feelings for his old childhood friend Harmony. Really the characters are relatable, but interesting hough to hold my attention.
The characters also work so well because of the performances. Now people often say that Robert Downey Jr. was born to play Tony Stark, and while I agree with that sentiment I believe he was also born to play Harry Lockhart. I’m not sure if the part was written specifically for Downey Jr., or if he just came into the roll and injected his usual charm into it, but whatever it is it works. The character of Harry is so much like Downey Jr. that it doesn’t even feel like acting. He is quick-witted, a smooth talker, and kind of a dick at times, but he does have a heart of gold. Of course on the other side you have Perry, played wonderfully by Val Kilmer. Now Perry is like the opposite of Val Kilmer, and yet he plays him beautifully. Perry is also quick-witted, but he is a hard-ass and he has very little patience (one can assume he had to build this “wall” because of all of the shit he gets for being gay). But underneath all of that he is kind of a softie. You also have Harmony, played by Michelle Monaghan, which is Harry’s childhood friend. Her character is a little more complex, but again she does a great job. Harmony is interesting because she knows what she wants, and will do anything to get it, but when I say anything I do mean anything. This causes her character to be very tragic, having thrust herself into the seedy underbelly of Hollywood doing anything to make a name for herself she has skewed her sense of self-worth. Of course seeing Harry again brings back some old feelings, and then we get to see her confront a few of these emotions.
Going back to the writing of the film quickly, I enjoyed how the film used old detective story tropes. Harry and Harmony are constantly referencing old detective novels that they used to read, and they are always comparing the real life cases to those present in the books. This was a very interesting, and genius, choice to me because then the characters could acknowledge tropes for what they were. Instead of using these classic “twists” as crutches, and pretending that they aren’t overused, the film would instead stop and acknowledge what they did using the detective novels that they read as a reference. This allowed for the film to remain fresh, as well as the characters to continue to draw comparison in a “life imitates art” fashion.
Overall Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a brilliant film on all fronts.With writing that is both fresh and hilarious, and performances that are amazing, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is what I would call a modern classic.
I give Kiss Kiss Bang Bang an A