Monday, August 9, 2010

Ryan Watches A Motion Picture #45: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

I realise that this is probably nonsense to many a movie-goer, but Robert Downey jr. consistently annoys the living tapeworms out of me. I just can't digest his line deliveries very well, and neither can the tapeworms. The flippant and breakneck banter I've come to link to Downey pretty much ruined the Iron Man flicks for me, as in those movies - more pronouncedly in the second - the banter reaches a level something like 'extreme biohazard'. This review is starting off with a real tilt towards the biological, and I'm not entirely sure why. Hm. Oh well.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is infectious. The dialogue comes very close to annoying Downey syndrome, but manages to reel back just enough to strike me mostly as charming. It's written by Shane Black, who apparently wrote the first Lethal Weapon movie. And Last Action Hero. Yep. (Holy shit - that's the creeping familiarity that's been lurking in my unconscious since watching this movie. That's why Downey bothers me. I think he reminds me of Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon, and I've never been keen on the Lethal Weapon series. Downey gets characters with the same flippant attitude, the same borderline madness. Here I'd like to apologise to Mr. Downey Jr. for comparing him to Mel Gib-racist-sexist-son.) The drama unfolds in an archetypal but satisfying way, and features a man who isn't what he thought he'd be when he grew up and a woman in the same boat. She's also 'the one that got away' and he hasn't quite given up. All the clever banter that moves between them gets interrupted now and again by ugly moments made all the more ugly for being couched in what is seemingly a comedy.

Anywho, I must talk about Tarantino factor now because Kiss Kiss has a definite post-Tarantino vibe to it. That might be good or bad depending on your feelings toward the big T, but the echoes of his post-modern style are of course here to stay in cinema, and he's oft emulated and never matched. Kiss Kiss manages to do better than most on that front, which is surprising given that it goes further where Tarantino tends to wisely stop: while T-man's movies are culturally referential and draw attention to cinema as being deliberate representations or constructions, his movies never quite become aware of themselves. With the exception, I think, of Kill Bill, they don't stop and say "Hey, I'm a movie." Kiss Kiss is aware of itself. Downey works as a cheeky narrator who openly acknowledges that you're watching a film. Characters namedrop their favourite movies from time to time, letting you know that it was written by someone who considers themselves pretty fairly steeped in movie-culture. While this can easily become trite, it manages here to add something wistful and idealistic. Something that speaks about our desires and where we place them.

Lastly, I always get a kick out of Val Kilmer, and his role as Gay Perry, a tough and unrelentingly acerbic counterpart to Downey is a treat to watch. I kind of want a movie about Gay Perry.

So: A meta, stylish, and funny bit of wish-fulfillment. Val Kilmer rules.


  1. I just borrowed Tombstone from Dave, he was shocked to hear that I had never seen it (Westerns generally aren't my thing) - Val Kilmer pretty much made that movie for me.

  2. Yeah man, Kilmer's genius in that flick. :3