Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

                ďKiss Kiss, Bang BangĒ moves with the speed of light from the outlandish minds of its makers straight to the collective funny bone of the audience.  Trying to describe what this movie is about is impossible.  Describing its impact is easy.  Itís clever, unpredictable, flippant, and at times hilariously funny.  At the few moments when the humor becomes grotesque - trust me, as George Bush might say - youíll still be laughing.  Writer Shane Black has written a script where nothing makes sense and everything is funny.

                A little girl whose whole imaginary life springs from her multiple readings of a series of cheesy detective novels of the 1940ís, grows up to be Harmony Faith Lane (Michelle Monaghan), a beautiful thirty something who has failed in her efforts to become a Hollywood actress.  A little boy, whose actual life is rooted in comic failures, grows up to be Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.), a petty crook who canít even bring off a minor heist to get a Christmas present for his nephew.   Harmony, who is depressed, and Harry, who is on the lam, meet at one of those Hollywood parties where lives are changed over drinks around the pool.  The details of their futures begin to float uninvited into their lives.  At this same gathering they meet Gay Perry (Val Kilmer), a detective who has several active lives and little integrity.

                From this grand starting point, the movie is in all respects a rip-roaring take off on the detective stories of the 1940ís.  Harry narrates in the voice of the Bogart type tough guy, but the irony here is that Harry isnít tough.  Heís sweet and pure and innocent.  Gay, who is gay, promises to be mean but isnít.  Harmony has all the marks of a dodo, but is anything but.  The friendship that develops in the most unexpected ways among these three is sweet (now thereís a fitting adjective for a violent tale).  They will protect each other at all costs and the costs, trust me again, are both big and crazy.

                You will have the best of times if you do not even try to follow the plot connections which are extremely clever, but obtuse.  In vain attempts to show us how developments fit with what went before, Harry and Gay stop every now and then to recap for us, but even then you will laugh at your inability to get it.  You may have to see this one twice because so many of the lines are covered in laughter.   

                The imagery that captures the tough Hollywood 1940ís is nimble and witty.  Outsized shootouts, the dog and the severed finger, saved by the hand of a corpse, the revenge of the pure, and all kinds of silly, unexpected surprises.  This movie is fast and playful and over the whole inelegant thing, three actors, perfectly cast, engage in an affectionate verbal dance that elicits the one thing audiences love best:  involuntary laughter Ė lots of it.


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