May 12, 2006 -- “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” is a very funny send-up of hard-boiled L.A. detective movies like “L.A. Confidential” and “Chinatown.” Unlike those films, this one is not serious at all, despite all the murders, blood and mutilations. It is chock-full of wisecracks and movie in-jokes. For instance in one scene, in which one of the movie's main characters survives a near-fatal shooting, the narrator, (Robert Downey Jr. of “Good Night and Good Luck”) points out that the character's survival is a detective movie cliché and to drive home the point, Elvis and Abraham Lincoln appear on screen, also alive.
Downey stars as would-be detective, petty thief and would-be actor Harry Lockhart. On the run from the law, Lockhart stumbles into an audition for a detective role and gets embroiled in a homicide investigation with Hollywood detective and mentor Gay Perry (Val Kilmer of “Alexander”). Lockhart meets up with an old high school flame, Harmony Faith Lane (Michelle Monaghan of “Constantine”). Even though he's not really a detective, he agrees to investigate a missing persons case for her only because he's been carrying a torch for her since the Los Angeles Olympics. To no one's surprise it turns out that Lockhart's and Perry's seemingly unrelated cases are found to be intimately related, and the film points out that this is yet another cliché.
The narrator, Downey, addresses the audience not only about what's happening with the plot, but about the inadequacies of this particular genre of movies. The actual murder mystery turns out to be incredibly complex and the plot is comically convoluted. There really is no point to the plot. This film is more about the delight of the journey than it is about the destination. Written and directed by Shane Black, a first-time director and long-time writer, this movie displays irreverent daring and is delightfully playful. For instance, Black has fun with narrated flashbacks. Sometimes the narrator will leave out some important point in the flashback, and it will have to be “rewound” and played again with the new information, while the narrator apologizes for being such a bad storyteller. The narrator sometimes uses this opportunity to point out how seemingly unrelated scenes actually do advance the story. It is just another way that Black makes fun of some traditional movie conventions.
Black has never been afraid to make fun of himself and Hollywood. This spoof does both. It reminded of another similar irreverent film a few years ago, “Scream,” which was filled with horror movie in-jokes. “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” rates a B.
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