Monday, 17 December 2012

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Lowdown: A burglar turned would be actor and/or private detective finds himself deep in a sexual murder mystery.
I don’t know if you noted it, but coming up with the above one liner to describe Kiss Kiss Bang Bang with proved harder than usual; I cannot claim to derive satisfaction from the final result. This hardship stems from the movie being more than one movie or one genre, but rather a collection of ideas we are used to seeing in many separate movies. The fact Kiss Kiss Bang Bang creates such a mix and very successfully so may explain why my wife and I have been talking about watching it again ever since we first stepped out of the cinema back in 2005. By now I actually forgot how good this movie is!
Robert Downey Jr. stars as Harry, an East Coast good hearted burglar whose partner finds himself shot to death by an overzealous onlooker. Grieved but still running away from police, Harry escapes capture by pretending to audition for a movie. His grief renders him so impressive he is immediately ordered to show up in Los Angeles and take practical lessons from a private detective, Gay Perry (Val Kilmer), so as to improve his chances for the role.
His first encounter with LA culture comes at a party where he meets the film's other protagonists. Like Gay Parry, who lives up to his name; or like Harmony (Michelle Monaghan), a girl who agrees with everyone else in the party other than Harry that being sexually poked while hung over is acceptable. Harry doesn't accept it, which is perhaps why he suddenly finds himself not studying the ways of a private detective but rather deep inside his own Hollywood murder mystery. This time around he cannot tell friend from foe - everyone is more than meets the eye.
This one is a film where 180 degree plot spins are the norm. Indeed, if there is anything I can blame Kiss Kiss Bang Bang for then it is the fact I would not swear to be able to understand the exact details of all the plot twists. That is, if you were to ask me how come our heroes got to a certain conclusion, I'd probably shrug. However, that does not mean my appreciation of the film is lacking; it just means there is so much more to this movie than the plot.
Instead of a plot to focus on we have twists. We also have great acting: Downey Jr. has proved himself inspirational many times before and after, but I vote for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang being his best ever; Val Kilmer steps out to remind us how good a comedian he can be (Top Secret, anyone?); and Michelle Monaghan is as sexy as a female could be in addition to performing her role.
After all is said and done, we are left with film noir that's not truly noir. That is to say, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is more like film noir comedy. Film noir where the tragic hero is Hollywood's culture, and by extension our own culture. A culture that even a veteran burglar finds unacceptable.
Best scene:
Harmony undresses at Harry’s hotel room, with Harry “reluctantly” watching the scene through the mirror. He may be unsure whether to watch or not, but Harmony sure does know what she’s doing. The scene develops as the sexual tension builds, but – as with everything else in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – blows up into something completely different at the end. Or, to put it another way, romantic comedies don’t come any better than this, a film that does not really claim to be a romantic comedy.
The scene actually builds up on a previous scene where Harmony falls asleep in Harry’s bed as Harry finds a huge spider crawling over her. Harry fights the invader while the now awake Harmony is convinced he was after a good feel. Being a good Hollywood girl she says she doesn't care; it is clear that deep inside she does, though.
Together, these two scenes contribute to the movie’s ongoing theme on LA ethics being a substandard of the rest of the world’s. As in, the richer and famous you are, the less of a human you are, too. If you look at Kiss Kiss Bang Bang philosophically, the movie is all about overcoming this problem.
Overall: I have one nagging notion in my head since we finished re-watching Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – I want to watch it again! Movies like that are ever so rare, thus fully deserving 4.5 out of 5 stars. Perhaps even more.

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