Funny as it is smart, "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" is one of the most overlooked films of 2005. Sweeping through theaters like a Uwe Boll film, the movie barely made a dent with audiences, despite rather positive critical feedback and a good cast.
"Kiss Kiss Bang Bang," to thus be referred to as "KKBB," stars Robert Downey Jr. as a small time thief, who, while eluding police, winds up in an a movie audition, gets the part and is whisked away to Hollywood where he is submerged in a world of murder, mystery and celebrities. A classic murder mystery with a modern day twist, "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" mocks the very thing it is - a Hollywood concoction of grandiose proportions, where no genre is left untouched to get to the end goal. The movie successfully satires everything while at the same time thriving in the very situations it is making fun of, as it transitions from crime comedy to murder mystery to romance to action, all in under 100 minutes. The transition is seamless and the movie makes the most of its genre-sharing, as "KKBB" succeeds at nearly every moment.
Downey Jr. is supported by Val Kilmer, playing a gay FBI agent, Michelle Monaghan (the Katie Holmes look-alike from "Mission: Impossible: III") as the love interest, and... well, that's about it. Okay, so when I said the movie had a good cast maybe I was exaggerating a bit, but I like Kilmer and feel he's always gotten a bad rap for no real reason. Kilmer and Downey Jr. play well off one another, not necessarily complete opposites but certainly an odd match.
The movie works on so many levels it is hard to know where to begin. For starters, it's funny. The second half not so much, but the first half tremendously, the sharp timing of both the actors and the narration (again, Downey Jr.) lend for several laugh-out-loud moments. The movie will occasionally stop mid-frame as Downey Jr. explains to the audience that a clue was just revealed - not with the intent to help you to figure things out but instead point out how cliché and obvious something is. Downey Jr. is fantastic in the role; at some point it would be nice to see him get recognized for his abilities.
"KKBB" is as clever as it is funny. While the dialogue is witty, the plot is also a winding road, as there are several plot twists and surprises along the way. Despite being light-hearted and comical in many ways, the movie rarely treats the plot itself as a comedy, and this is where the film really succeeds. It is funny, yet the story is a serious murder mystery, and a complex one at that - if you don't pay attention like I did not, you'll be lost by the third act. Kudos go to writer/director Shane Black, who, after such movies as "Last Action Hero" and "The Long Kiss Goodnight" (okay, and the "Lethal Weapon" movies), needed a nice shot in the arm.
The movie does fade a bit in the third act, as the movie maneuvers its way around its various loose ends and turns into a quasi-action movie for a short time. Basically, the scenes that had lesser dialogue often were the least interesting.
Nevertheless, "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" is a consistently entertaining and smart comedy/murder mystery that pokes fun at Hollywood just right. Downey Jr. and Kilmer are terrific, and I've even been having urges to buy the DVD... something I rarely do these days.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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