So Marilyn will be taking a backseat this week as I get into the last week of school. I’m going to try to catch up during the weekend so everyone hold tight if you’re on a Marilyn binge. We’re moving on to the 2000s and another film noir. I have to mention I had set up the movies and wasn’t planning on doing The Thin Man yesterday for this reason but apparently my copy of this movie was in hiding and I couldn’t find anything from the rest of the list so you get two film noirs…but this is just as good as The Thin Man!
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a modern-day film noir following small time crook Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey, Jr.) who is set up as an actor and is made to take detective lessons from a real PI named “Gay” Perry (Val Kilmer). When Harry meets up with his childhood crush Harmony (Michelle Monaghan) he gets mistaken for a real PI and is entrusted to find out who killed Harmony’s little sister.
There’s so much to love about this movie and if you enjoy film noir you’ll eat this up! The film pays tribute to cheap pulp novels like Dashiell Hammet’s work while wrapping it up in a Hollywood ribbon. The film makes fun of how simple it is to go from obscurity to some kind of fame, and in terms of characters like Harmony, how sometimes it just eludes you. Regardless it’s all about the mystery and how two separate stories converge to form one big mystery. The narration by Harry emphasizes the film’s self-awareness as Harry details the story yet breaks because he’s forgotten parts and makes fun of events. The simple act of a flashback leads to giggles as Harry comments on the extras placed “in front of the mammoth f***ing lens…move!” The end also cracks me up as Harry narrates the studios’ fears of “downer endings” and comments that in everyone whose died in the film should come back. Cue every character whose died walking in and waving to Harry. The film is both a film noir and also a spoof of mystery films.
I remember seeing this when it came out and no one having any clue what it was. This film brought Robert Downey, Jr. back into the spotlight and the way he recites director Shane Black’s words are perfect. Downey did another film noir movie, The Singing Detective, which is completely different from this (it’s a noir musical) and it’s equally amazing. Here when Downey walks into a bar and comments that he’s sore and “not someone whose mad in a 1950s movie” I can’t think of anyone else able to play a grizzled, hardened character like him.
He’s matched word for word by the scene stealing Kilmer who I still think is a great actor. I ignore much of his recent work (he’ll always be Jim Morrison to me!). Anyway, he plays Perry as tough but his “gay” angle always comes through in the best ways, case in point his anger at Harry throwing his gun “that my mother got me as a special gift” into the lake. RDJ and Kilmer have phenomenal chemistry and I maintain they need to make anther buddy movie. Michelle Monaghan has also never been better as Harmony. She’s the girl wonder through and through!
If you’ve noticed the extensive quoting this script is phenomenal. I’ve praised every inch of this movie so by this point it should be on your Netflix queue. It does take place on Christmas, there’s a slew of Hollywood Christmas parties including one that has a girl in reindeer antlers doing some type of performance art (it’s Hollywood for you)!
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A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.