In 7th Grade, Judge Dennis Prince's Homecoming date finished more to the tune of 'Kiss, kiss, uh-oh, I-gotta-go.'
"Do not play detective. This is not a book. This is not a movie."—Gay Perry
This isn't your father's noir. Actually, it's more like a swirled latte that costs too much and isn't very good, but you look hip holding it and so you mingle with people you don't like talking to, discussing things you don't care about, hoping to land a part in a movie.
Yeah, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang makes about as much sense as that, but, like California conversation that occurs after two or three stiff drinks, who cares? Smile, nod when prompted, and enjoy. And, if you do, you'll discover this stark and snide murder-comedy feels good and won't cause a hangover. Plus, the high-definition chaser, courtesy of Blu-ray, makes the taste so much better and the effect so much stronger.
I'll have another, thank you very much.
Facts of the Case
My name's Harry Lockhart—I'll be your narrator.
And it seems so incredible that this petty thief—a lousy thief, really, because honestly, what sort of pathetic moron can't knock off a toy store after hours?—has taken flight to Los Angeles and hopes to become invisible by landing an acting job. Well, Harry (that's Robert Downey, Jr., although you might not recognize him outside of his orange jumpsuit; it didn't work with his eyes anyway) landed himself a role as a private eye, but now needs to learn just what sorts of private things a detective like this might eye. He shows up at a party where he rubs up against 'Gay Perry' Van Shrike (Val Kilmer). (Yeah, bet you didn't know both Batman and Doc Holliday were gay. Singly, that is, not as a couple—at least not that anyone's been able to prove). Well, Perry is a former P.I. turned film consultant, so he's fully dialed in and is just the number to teach Harry a thing or two about uncovering hot evidence and probing deep for answers. The two get tangled up in a murder, and Harry gets more than his money's worth in the P.I. schooling department. Add the saucy Harmony Faith Lane (that would be Michelle Monaghan, a newcomer who's welcome back any time) as the long lost love of Harry and you've got more noir than you can spread on one of those little fibrous snack crackers. Things really get weird after this, so you'll have to pay close attention and keep your mouth shut.
Don't worry, I saw Lord of the Rings. I'm not going to end this 17 times.
Shane Black came back, after a six-year hiatus, to grace us with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Having previously launched the "buddy cop" genre of the '80s with his screenplay for Lethal Weapon, Black turns that whole genre on its side—with one leg twisted and sort of bent forward, awkwardly—in his directorial debut with the most peculiar noir outing you'll ever see. Its humor is dark and biting despite the fact that its compositions are generally bright and vibrant (it's that whole sort of 'misdirection' thing going on here). That's right, it's Hollywood Babylon; a heavy dose of intoxicated peril but with one of those little paper parasols bobbing along the edge of the drink. It wastes no time in setting its tone and works like a tommy gun full of rapid fire send-ups and put-downs. If you doubt its intentions, the moment protagonist Harry loses a finger in an unflinching twist on the old foot-in-the-door routine you'll know you're being hustled. It's different, but it's good, too. Beyond this, it's difficult to explain because, frankly, it should be made to explain itself. The acting is pitch perfect, top to bottom.
Of course, the reason you're here is to determine if this flashy piece of cinema is worth a look in dazzling Blu-ray high definition, the latest wonder of the world that will certainly reveal every zit and ingrown hair on an aspiring actor's face. Well, yes, if that's what you look for in a high-definition experience. The fact is, this transfer is magically conjured through the use of a 1080p / MPEG-2 encode (yeah, you know what that really means or are you just nodding your head so you won't look like the only one who doesn't get it?). It looks great, it looks crisp, and it looks like you'll be spending another $30 to take a peek yourself; unless you're one of those "renters." Whatever. The image is crisp—I already said that, didn't I?—but it really is…uh, yeah, I guess "crisp" is the best word for it. The details really spring forward here, especially those nude bits. The color is bright and bold, that is when it's not dark and downtrodden. The picture manages the switch between contrasting compositions well and, well, you should see it. Look, it's not the greatest high-def product out there, but it's no House of Flying Artifacts, either. Okay, if you're one of those HD "tier snobs," well call this one a solid "2." Good enough? That's "2" on a scale of zero to five. That is, five is an HD home movie abomination and zero is like real life spilling out into your living room, without the annoying 3-D glasses. This one's a "2."
If you're ready, I'll tell you about the sound. It sounds pretty good, but not great. Remember this was an early release on this high-definition format and the best it can muster up is a decent Dolby Digital 5.1 mix at an improved bitrate of 640kbps (say it with me: "kilobits-per-second"). Remember when we all thought 5.1 was orgasmic back around 1997 or so? Well, in the high-definition strata, it's just plain flaccid. It sounds good enough, giving plenty of opportunity for your expensive surround sound speakers to perk up, and the low-end channel sometimes rumbles like a bison with a bowel disorder. That would be pleasing, wouldn't it—I mean, to hear, not to actually see, and certainly not to smell. This is the part where we discuss sound so, that's it; it sounds pretty good.
Hey! Do you like extras? Sure you do, because a filmmaker's final product isn't nearly complete unless we can see every little mistake he made along the way and allow plenty of time for actors and producers and best boys and caterers to say what a pain in the a** he was during the shoot. Well, this disc has a bunch of that, and more. First, there's a feature-length commentary with Shane Black, Robert Downey, Jr., and Val Kilmer. This isn't film school because the yocks are in high gear here. Kilmer quips the entire way through, Downey sounds like he's still stuck in narrator mode, and Black is confounded over why the film didn't do better at the box office. There's a short gag reel (and somewhere in that term is a tasteless gay joke, I'm sure) and a theatrical trailer.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Thanks for coming, please stay for the end credits, if you're wondering who the best boy is, it's somebody's nephew. Um, don't forget to validate your parking, and to all you good people in the Midwest, sorry we said f*ck so much.
It's a really whacked outing, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang; but where else can you watch characters self-destruct like this in the make-believe land of Hollywood, and not get any on you? See it, then come back and try to explain it to me. I really liked it but I'll be damned if I know why.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
• Commentary with Shane Black, Robert Downey, Jr., and Val Kilmer
Review content copyright © 2007 Dennis Prince; Site design and review layout copyright © 2016 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.