Written by: Kristen Lopez, Editor in Chief
There are hundreds of movies released every year; more than any one person could possibly consume. We'd like to think that we catch all the good ones, but unfortunately, sheer volume of numbers indicates that every once in a while, a worthy film is going to fall through the cracks.
Luckily, CC2K is here to help! Periodically, we will highlight one such film where the quality is inversely proportional to the attention it received and box office it earned.
Today, Kristen Lopez re-introduces the world to the snarky film-noir LA comedy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
When considering a film to discuss for this column, I decided to start with a personal favorite, that almost no one I encounter has ever seen. This film came and went without much noise, but was raved about by critics, and is in fact a very fun movie that almost everyone will love. That film is Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
What exactly is Kiss Kiss Bang Bang about you ask? Well the film follows petty crook Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.). Lockhart is our narrator and discusses the basic elements of the film to you, essentially setting the story up in the first two minutes. We then see Harry in a toy store on Christmas Eve, not only robbing it, but also trying to convince his niece who is on the phone with him that he can’t find her Christmas gift. When this heist goes bad and his partner gets shot, Harry accidentally stumbles into an audition for a role in a crime film.
Now I know what you’re thinking: so far, this comedy of errors seems to be all over the place. Well it actually starts to settle down once Harry ends up getting the role. He then becomes a quasi-Hollywood celebrity. At a celebrity party he ends up meeting Perry Van Shrike (Val Kilmer) aka “Gay Perry.” Perry is supposed to teach Harry how to act like a detective, which is what he is playing in this mystery film. Harry also ends up reuniting with his best friend/crush, Harmony Faith Lane (Michelle Monaghan) who is a failed actress trying to convince herself otherwise.
The meat of the story comes when Perry and Harry end up witnessing the murder of a Hollywood heiress which happens to coincide with the alleged murder of Harmony’s baby sister. Now saying too much after this point really ruins the movie, but suffice it to say our Perry, Harmony and Harry form an unlikely detective trio out to find out exactly what Hollywood’s top elite are hiding.
Written and directed by acclaimed writer of the Lethal Weapon films, Shane Black, the movie definitely showed that the buddy crime caper is not dead. Now, while the plot seems very complex it actually keeps moving at a very constant pace. There are no slow moments or anything too difficult to understand in this film. The writing is all top notch with probably some of the most hilarious one-liners I’ve heard in awhile. Most of the jokes come at the expense of Val Kilmer’s gay character, but the humor itself is very smart and doesn’t end up resorting to any dick or fart jokes like in other comedies.
What truly makes Kiss Kiss Bang Bang unique and special though is the cast and how they all play off each other. Robert Downey Jr. proves that he can still do comedy, especially when he’s playing such a quirky character like Harry Lockhart. Lockhart is incredibly naïve and is almost like a child when watching all the murder and mayhem around him. He’s only truly whole when he has his lady love, Harmony, beside him. Downey Jr. is able to play hero, sidekick, and romantic leading man all in one with this movie and it definitely shows his talent.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was also the film that really gave Val Kilmer his comeback. After the disappointing performance he gave in Alexander it was amazing to see how well Kilmer bounces back. As “Gay Perry” he delivers his dry one-liners with so much wit and sarcasm you start to use them in your everyday life. I know I still use his “definition of the world ‘idiot” line with my family all the time.
Another great performance comes from the beautiful actress Michelle Monaghan. I’ve heard from various websites that this was the film that really showed her acting chops and believe me they aren’t lying. While the film does tend to show off her “assets” more than a couple of times in the film, she is not your damsel in distress by any means. She’s very much a tough character who has endured tragedy and loss and while you might feel sorry for her she can definitely take care of herself. Monaghan is definitely an actress to watch, I’ve heard her work in the new movie Gone, Baby, Gone is almost in the vein of this film only dramatic.
Sadly, I wish this movie had gotten the attention it deserved. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is definitely one of the more unique films to come out of the industry in awhile. In the world of dumb comedies and mystery films with pointless twists, it’s nice to have a crime caper/film noir that is funny and engaging. If you can I highly recommend going out to your local Hollywood Video/Blockbuster/Netflix and rent Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
Author: Kristen Lopez, Editor in Chief
Kristen Lopez is the editor-in-chief of CC2K and a freelance pop culture essayist. Her work has appeared on Roger Ebert, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Daily Beast. When she’s not burning down Film Twitter she runs two podcasts, the female-centric film show Citizen Dame, and the classic film-themed Ticklish Business.