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USA 2005
Directed by
Shane Black
103 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Andrew Lee
3.5 stars

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Synopsis: A petty thief (Robert Downey Jnr) posing as an actor is brought to Los Angeles for an unlikely audition and finds himself in the middle of a murder investigation along with his high school dream girl (Michelle Monaghan) and a detective (Val Kilmer) who's been training him for his upcoming role.

Shane Black is the writer behind Lethal Weapon (1987) and The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996). Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is proof that writers who harbour directorial ambitions cannot be trusted. They save the best stuff for themselves.

The plot is pure noir: dead bodies every which way, beautiful women, duped men and a slightly improbable yet logical connection between different story threads. The film even goes out of its way to tell you this, via knowing dialogue and one of the best voice-over narrations in recent memory. The style fits too, with the film rewinding and restarting as Harry (Downey Jnr) realises that he's messed up the telling of the story. There are little bits of meta-commentary like this all the way through, but rather than being an annoying gimmick, they draw you in, they add to the film's charm. The characters are so loveable too. Robert Downey Jnr's Harry is a great and empathetic character. For all his failings you can't help but be persuaded by him. Val Kilmer as Perry van Shrike, also known as "Gay Perry", has rarely done as well as this. He's tough, capable and caustically funny. Michelle Monaghan's Harmony Faith Lane, as the-girl-next-door-if-that-girl-was-Lauren-Bacall is touching and cynical in equal measure in htis black-as-night black comedy.

Writer, actor and producer Black knows the ins and outs of Hollywood, and gleefully sets about showing it in all its seedy glory. Failed actors, dodgy producers and a system that inures Harmony to sexual harassment as something that "happens" are all skewered as Harry finds himself embroiled in the L.A. milieu and a murder mystery in equal measure.

Thanks to Black's fine screenplay the twists come thick and fast and the wonderful thing about it is that the laughs don't come at the expense of the dark subject matter. Nasty things are properly regarded as nasty. This film earns both its laughs and its surprises and ends up being one of the best comedies of the year.




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