Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

Writer-Director:

Shane Black

Cast:

Robert Downey Jr………..Harry Lockhart
Val Kilmer……….Gay Perry
Michelle Monaghan……….Harmony Faith Lane
Corbin Bernsen……….Harlan Dexter
Dash Mihok……….Mr. Frying Pan
Rockmond Dunbar……….Mr. Fire
Larry Miller……….Dabney Shaw
Shannyn Sossamon……….Pink Hair Girl

Warner Bros. Pictures presents Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. Running time: 103 minutes. Rated R (for language, violence and sexuality/nudity). DVD available: June 13, 2006.


The Movie

At 22, Shane Black wrote a screenplay about a suicidal cop and a sergeant nearing retirement. Two years later the finished movie, called Lethal Weapon, redefined the action genre and the buddy picture: A double whammy. After some creative differences on Lethal Weapon 2, Black gave us the highly quotable Last Boy Scout and Last Action Hero, a satire of tough guy action heroes glorified on film. Upon netting the highest payday for a screenplay – four million dollars for The Long Kiss Goodnight – Black pulled a Casper. He disappeared from the Hollywood scene, because he grew tired of the action genre he helped redefine.

Close to a decade after his last big check, Shane Black has staged a comeback. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang may have only reached 226 theaters domestically, but it made quite the impression to those who experienced it. Myself included.

Full of audacity, the movie is narrated by Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.). Nobody else volunteered so Harry’s here to keep us up to speed. This bumbling robber turns would-be actor by hiding out at an audition. With crocodile tears, he’s convincing enough in the role of a detective to warrant a trip out to Los Angeles. There he gets private eye lessons from Gay Perry (Val Kilmer). Perry’s not really gay, so he tells Harry; he just liked the name so much he couldn’t get rid of it.

Inspired by author Raymond Chandler and based in part from Brett Halliday’s novel Bodies Are Where You Find Them, the movie is geared for fans of noir fiction; where detectives are brash (and gay, apparently), women are edgy, and the conclusion is determined by a random connection of events.

Dead bodies, foul play, a loss of a finger (not once but twice), a gay private eye who’s more manly than any two cowboys, and a narrator who constantly breaks the fourth wall by addressing the audience: “Don’t worry, I saw Lord of the Rings. I’m not going to end this 17 times.” Yeah, this has Shane Black written all over.

Guns are present throughout, as is an arsenal of wiseass remarks. His sharp dialogue, characters engaging in glib repartee, shows that the Black keeps his ear to the street. Like novelist Elmore Leonard, he writes how people talk. The dialogue may not advance the story, but who cares? Part film noir, part slapstick, the script is an example of style overtaking substance. It may not be coherent, but is it really meant to be?

This comic noir is entertainment for the masses. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. The film is wall-to-wall clichés. Too many if you don’t like that sort of thing. Just right if you are a charter member of the Shane Black fan club. For a guy who redefined the action genre – a genre that got stale as the eighties wore on – Black tries to keep the audience guessing. As both the writer and director, he doesn’t have to worry about someone else dissecting his verbiage. In another director’s hands, the director would have probably cut Robert Downey Jr.’s entertaining narration. It may not be essential to the story, but it holds the audience, keeping them glued. Plus, very rarely do you hear the narrator curse at himself.

Much like Shane Black, Robert Downey Jr. is making a comeback of his own. Clean and sober, he probably wants to reach that zenith he once obtained when he got an Oscar nom for Chaplin. Downey is solid as the incompetent crook-would-be actor-narrator Harry Lockhart. He may be the lead but co-star Val Kilmer upstages him as Gay Perry. This film marks Kilmer’s return to comedy. He had memorable comedic quips as Doc Holiday in Tombstone, but Kilmer hasn’t done a full-size comedy since Real Genius, which was close to two decades ago.

Having fallen off casting directors’ radars, Kilmer has delivered some great performances in smaller pictures, like The Salton Sea and Wonderland, where he got to play legendary porn star John Holmes. He even worked with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet on Spartan.

Downey and Kilmer are an odd pairing. So were Bruce Willis and Damon Wayans (The Last Boy Scout). Together this madcap duo share the screen quite a bit and deliver a barrage of gut-busting wisecracks and one-liners. When Harry idiotically throws Perry’s gun into a lake, Perry is incensed. He tells Harry to look up idiot in the dictionary. “You know what you’ll find?” “A picture of me?” Harry replies. “No. The definition of the word idiot.”

Oh, wait. I forgot. Just like Harry is bad at narrating, I left something out.

A little description about the plot.

The less you know going into Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, the better. I could write about the supporting players, the mystery that needs to be solved and other plot devices. It’s just as easy to write that Shane Black’s directorial debut is an amalgamation of black comedy, mystery, noir, romance. If any of those genres pique interest, then you won’t mind some sharp-edged banter, a little action, and plot so bizarre you can’t afford to miss. It’s that crazy.


The DVD

THE VIDEO
(2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen)

Presented in its original theatrical ratio, the transfer is near perfection. Michael Barrett, the cinematographer, gives the movie a glossy look. Nightclub scenes are well lit with neon. The DVD transfer does not have any compression artifacts or edge enhancement problems. Using optical filters, the colors are lush and natural and really accentuate the city of Los Angeles.

THE AUDIO
(Dolby Digital 5.1 – English, French; Spanish 2.0)

A good, clean mix makes for nice audio experience. Most of the movie is strictly dialogue, thus not effectively utilizing all five channels. But when the action intensifies or John Ottman’s score kicks in, the surrounding channels are active and used effectively. The DVD also has a French DD 5.1 track and a Spanish DD 2.0 track. Optional English, French, and Spanish subtitles are also included.

SPECIAL FEATURES

Having grossed a third of its 15-million dollar budget in the U.S., another 10 mil overseas, Warner Bros. skimps out on the extras like a patron doing an eat-and-run at a restaurant.

What is included is an entertaining commentary track with Val, Robert, and Shane. Downey and Kilmer are the heavies where hilarity is a concern. They are just kicking back and having a good time as they crack jokes about the action on screen. Black interacts with the actors as he tries to give the listener some “did you knows” about the production.

Some of the golden nuggets of production wisdom include the use of computer rendered pubic hair for one scene, cameos by Laurence Fishburne and B-movie star Richard Greico, and an extra appearing not once, but twice.

Also included is a gag reel. Kilmer and Downey highlight the four-minute reel, giving the viewer another opportunity to laugh at the crook and private eye. The last extra is the theatrical trailer for Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.

THE INSIDE PULSE

Malignly overlooked when it was released in theaters last October, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is a breath of fresh air. It’s the type of cinematic experience that is rarely seen these days. At the end of the commentary, Kilmer and Downey were committed that they would love to work with Black again. Considering that both KK, BB and The Last Boy Scout are properties of Warner Bros., how about a mystery where Downey and Kilmer and Willis and Wayans are working different cases, but the conclusion links both of them together? Uh, there I am again, getting off subject. As far as the DVD goes, the movie’s replay value makes up for paltry extras. You would be a fool to pass up this dark comedy gem.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE MOVIE

8.5
THE VIDEO

9.5
THE AUDIO

8
THE EXTRAS

5
REPLAY VALUE

10
OVERALL
9
(NOT AN AVERAGE)