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 Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
 Critic's Rating
   [A-]
 Date Posted
   16th January, 2006
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Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer, Michelle Monaghan
Director: Shane Black

"Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" is like receiving two sweet kisses on your lips and then two well-aimed .45 caliber shots in the nuts. This is writer Shane Black's slick directorial debut; and it is tasteful and sharp on the tongue; sweet yet sour – just the way you would like your coffee. If it seems that I'm heaping an awful lot of praise on this film, then the answer would be yes. I am quite overwhelmed by its inventiveness – "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" is a clever self-referential throwback to pulp. It is a celebration of art, an affectionate post-modern commentary on the way we hate film clichés and stereotypes, and why we cannot bring ourselves to truly despise them. Consider our main character's sincere promise to us: "Don't worry, I saw Lord of the Rings. I'm not going to end this 17 times."

The film's opening scene takes place in a small-town fairground where young Harry Lockhart and his friend are performing a classic illusion: sawing through a log of wood with a little girl trapped in it. We expect applause towards the end of this magic trick but something has gone wrong. The boys have lost control of their chainsaw and we realise from the girl's piercing shrieks that this innocent stunt will end in blood and tears. The child magicians, their spectators and we are all horrified. But wait – the girl begins to smirk and shatters us with a gleeful "I'm going to be an actress!" This scene sets the tone of what is to follow. Using a similar voiceover narration style from Fincher's "Fight Club," we meet an adult Harry (Robert Downey Jr.) who introduces himself as the film's narrator; the charm of this technique is that it allows the narrator to make comments on the story and characters as it unfolds. You will need to pay close attention to follow the story because it is purposely over-plotted – a pulp book series favoured by Harmony (Michelle Monaghan), the little girl who is a beautiful grownup woman, becomes part of the screenplay to fuse reality and fantasy. Think if you will of Soderbergh's "Full Frontal" but only on two levels. The funny thing is that if you feel confused by the contrivances of the plot then you are not alone. The characters are equally perplexed and they take time out to question and backtrack. Know this though: there will be witty banter, bullets, dead bodies and car crashes before a murder mystery is solved or before the good guy kisses the girl. Absurd? But that's the point!

Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer, who plays an FBI agent called Gay Perry, have incredible chemistry. The trinity is completed by newcomer Michelle Monaghan. These three actors live and breathe their characters in the film and you will question if anyone else could have played Harry, Gay Perry and Harmony better. Their performances are the glue for the film's warped sense of humour, the crux of the story's comedy and mystery.

"Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" is diabolical and funny. It is a dark comedy that is expertly designed as part buddy movie, part murder mystery; all firmly rooted in film-noir. The film's rebellious structure adheres to the rule that it is not the story but in its telling. With so much invention, a slick screenplay and an ensemble cast that must only be described as sexy, this is an unforgettable fun ride that will leave you breathless and wanting instant repeat viewings to take it all in. - Adnan Khan

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