Shane Black is best known for writing Lethal Weapon and a few other pretty good action flicks (Last Action Hero, The Long Kiss Goodnight), or maybe for playing the one curiously non-buffed commando in Predator – Joel Silver owed him a favour, apparently. He must still be grateful for all the cash the “Lethal Weapon” franchise raked in, because Silver has now produced Black’s directorial debut.
“kiss kIss bAng banG” is not quite the ’80s throwback buddy cop picture you would expect, though it does have elements of that as well as a few generic Joel Silverish chases and shoot-outs. Mostly, it’s a vaguely post-modern film noir spoof with a monumentally incomprehensible plot, probably intentionally so. It doesn’t help that we’re guided through the twist-heavy story by the most clueless noir protagonist since the Dude, Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.), who also acts as unreliable narrator. Actually, the narration is practically the best thing about the movie, with lots of funny little asides (“I’m sorry, that was a terrible scene, why is that in the movie? I wonder if that’ll come back later…”) and gratuitous jabs (“I was wetter than Drew Barrymore at a grunge club.”)
Harry starts out as a New York lowlife who steals shit for a living, but when a toy store robbery goes wrong and he escapes the police by barging into an open audition, he winds up being flown to L.A. for a screen test. Once there, he’s paired with Gay Perry (Val Kilmer), a private detective who occasionally serves as consultant for actors. They go on a filature that’s supposed to be routine, but obviously it doesn’t work out that way. I couldn’t even tell you what happens exactly from that point on if I wanted to, so let’s just say that many people die in many odd ways and that Harry and Gay Perry somehow always find themselves caught in the middle of it.
I liked the way dead bodies kept popping out everywhere and getting messed around with, even though Shane Black couldn’t possibly outdo the corpse humor of Michael Bay’s schlocksterpiece, Bad Boys II. The action scenes aren’t as exciting either, but that’s kinda beside the point. Black is mostly interested in the dynamic between the two mismatched detectives, a classic movie set-up which he subverts by playing up the inherent homoeroticism (“This isn’t good cop, bad cop. This is fag and New Yorker.”). Kilmer and Downey Jr. are a lot of fun to watch together, which makes it all the most unfortunate that they spend every other scene away from each other.
You see, Black felt he needed some kiss kiss with his bang bang, and he wasn’t quite ready to go all the way with the gay thing. Hence the Harmony character, the movie’s weakest link. Michelle Monaghan is cute enough, but her part is rather dull and the romance with Downey Jr. falls flat. The film could have used a femme fatale, but Harmony/Monaghan is certainly not that. “kiss kIss bAng banG” is not as clever as it thinks it is, but it’s a pretty enjoyable movie-movie nonetheless.