Monday, November 14, 2005


Bonus Movie Review

I try to be as cynical as the action flick comedy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (which is a silly title, despite its pedigree), but I can't keep up. This neo-noir movie by Shane Black, one of the founders of the modern action film (the unlikely buddy version, as he was author in whole or part of all the Lethal Weapon movies as well as The Last Boy Scout and The Long Kiss Goodnight) pulled out all the stops in an effort to be hip, jaded and innocent all at the same time. The snarky narrator is not only omniscient (as all narrators appear to be), but he is omnipotent as well with a tivo like ability to stop and rewind the movie and to yell at extras in the scene to get the heck out of the way (I don't think he said heck). It has incredible coincidence, memorable action, superior banter and lots of good looking women. Oh, and a gay male lead, Val Kilmer. Despite some major flaws, I liked this movie quite a bit and had a good time watching it.

In a sense, you could call this the come-back vehicle for Robert Downy Jr., but I'm sure other movies have already been called that and he still has plenty of time to relapse to uncontrollable drug use and ruin his career again. The lead girl, Michelle Monaghan, was great and she is a relative new comer. I last saw her as the very young and slutish girl miner in North Country, the one in the portable toilet they tip over. They also bring fast aging Corbin Bernson out of mothballs, I think because he has 20 year old cheesy movie footage (back when he had hair) which they could recycle as integral to the plot. Everything was integral to the plot. Even the smallest detail, like not wearing underpants. If you don't immediately connect underpantslessness with psychiatric hospital (rather than not wanting to have panty lines--as a lot of women desire) you are a middle American yokle. The narrator flat out tells us that. I think it was one of the plot problems, myself, but, of course, I am a middle American yokle. The other thing I liked is that Kilmer is constantly having to try to shut up the blabbering Downy. Then there is a more poingnant echo of that as Downy hushes a dying woman so that his position, under the bed, is not revealed. Pretty good.

There were, I believe, a lot of inside jokes and obscure and blatant Hollywood references. I'll tell you the ones I recognized. All the titles of the episodes of the movie are Raymond Chandler book titles. When Robert Downy Jr. speaks his deepest desire, it's for more demerol. There may be more. The pulp novels that nearly everyone in the movie are fans of (and which in a way are lame McGuffins) don't actually exist, but the propmaster got the covers just right. Another huge plot hole is the love affair between Downy and Michelle Monaghan. He's the highly moral crook (more cynicism) who only burgles businesses and carries an empty gun. He has had the hots for the girl lead since at least High School (where she slept with every boy but him and his best friend) and he's begged and pleaded and finally persuaded her to come up to his room drunk and she strips down to her lower undies (please notice--it could be an important clue) and gets into bed and she invites Downy in (just to sleep--they always say that) and, once he's in bed, she curls up all sleepy and sexy with her head on his chest and notices that he has an erection (and seems OK with it) and they kiss and it's about to happen, what Downy has longed for all his adult life and... She reveals that she slept with his best friend and he throws her out. Yea, right. I buy his hitting the driver of a speeding car with a pistol one handed and dangling from about 75 yards before I buy that fiction. "Oh you slept with my friend 17 years ago? Oh well, by-gones." And you have sex with your heart's desire, your one true love. Silly.

Lets talk about Shane Black more. This is his first director gig. He's like a kid with a train set, but ultimately most of it works. One other thing he wrote is The Last Action Hero where he used the device of a movie within a movie (magic ticket, my ass) to expose, ridicule yet rely on all the action movie cliches (just like Scream revealed, reviled yet had an affection for teenage slasher movie cliches). He continues with that leitmotiv in this film but on stilts and steroids. Another leitmotiv is incredible marksmanship (with a South African Vector pistol this time rather than the Baretta F 92 Mel Gibson used to put a smiley face on a target at 25 yards--a near impossible task). Kilmer calls it a $2000 ceramic gun. Yea, right. It's a CP-1 compact worth less than $500. And how does it reappear at the end? Another mystery/plot hole. Downy does Mel one better than the smiley face, he shoots everyone while suspended over a highway holding on to a corpse hand (don't ask). There really is no evolution in Black's buddy pairings--the unlikeliness of the black family man (Glover) with the grief/guilt crazy white single (Gibson)--but both cops--in Lethal Weapons became the unlikely pairing of a black disgraced football player (Damon Wayons) with dysfunctional family man and competent private detective (Bruce Willis) in Boy Scout and then the black single incompetent private detective (Samuel L. Jackson) with faux mom amnesiac secret agent (Gina Davis) in Long Kiss. Now the unlikely pairing becomes straight fraud actor/private eye with gay competent private eye. Except for the black white thing being used up, it's the same pairing. Why drop a good thing?

The movie is 103 minutes long, and went by fast. It has everything you want in an unlikely buddy action film and provides pretty good social commentary to boot. That is, it makes constant fun of the pretense and petty meanness of the people in LA. Also it provides some grammar pointers. Go see it. Oh, and stick around for the credits (not that it has outtakes or a final funny scene but something cool is revealed in the last song listing).

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