|Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
Starring: Val Kilmer, Robert Downey Jr., Michelle Monaghan, Corbin Bernsen
Director: Shane Black
Writer-turned-director Shane Black has written some of the most original action-comedy films of the past two decades, but “Lethal Weapon” is by far his most revered piece. This is good news, considering that his first shot behind the camera plays out a lot like a 50’s film noir version of the infamous buddy-cop flick, but it’s regrettably not as well polished. “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” shows flashes of brilliance amid a reasonably dull plot, almost as if Black had a notebook full of clever ideas and witty one-liners that he wasn’t able to use in past scripts. Still, the film is quite the charmer when it needs to be, and just when you’re growing tired of its convoluted plot, it manages to win you over once again.
Robert Downey Jr., fresh off another (and hopefully final) stint in rehab, plays Harry Lockhart, a petty thief on the run from the police when he accidentally walks in on a Hollywood audition in progress. Still shaken up from his run-in with the cops and the death of his partner, Harry delivers a convincing performance and is shipped off to Los Angeles for a screen test. At a Hollywood party for those involved in the movie, Harry meets the private eye assigned to prepare him for the role, Gay Perry (Val Kilmer), and a childhood crush, Harmony (Michelle Monaghan), who actually is an aspiring actress. But after Harmony’s younger sister and the daughter of the big shot movie producer are both found dead, the threesome find themselves in a double mystery worthy of any classic detective novel.
Downey Jr. is on fire in his return to the big screen, and with the exception of a few one-liners from Kilmer, he gets a majority of the juicy lines as the film’s narrator. His opening introduction (“That’s me there; my name is Harry Lockhart, and I'll be your narrator”) is a perfect example of the matter-of-fact humor that’s dispersed throughout Black’s solid script, but Downey sells it better than any other actor could, commenting further: “If you don’t like it, too bad. I don’t see another goddamn narrator in the room, so pipe down.” The postmodern commentary continues in true “Ferris Bueller” fashion, but unlike the annoying drivel that accompanied Tony Scott’s “Domino,” it works well here.
Later, towards the end of “Kiss Kiss” when the movie doesn’t seem to want to come to a close, Harry offers sage advice: “Don't worry, I saw ‘Lord of the Rings.’ I'm not going to end this, like, 17 times.” But for some reason, it continues to drag on, and as the plot wears on your patience, the script calls for more one-liners to save the day. Annoyingly enough, this tactic works, and while the uncertainty of how you feel about the film mulls around in the back of your head, you can’t help but sit back and enjoy.
The single-disc release of Shane Black's latest entry into the buddy cop genre isn't exactly teeming with bonus material, but the audio commentary with Black, Downey Jr. and Kilmer is a nice touch. Also featured on the DVD is a short gag reel and the film's theatrical trailer.