Monday, March 12, 2007

Movie Log: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Into every man's life must come a Shane Black movie every so often -- even a guy like me needs a booster shot of testosterone every so often. However, I like mine with irony, which is why I watched Kiss Kiss Bang Bang on Friday night.

It's not really a parody of the modern buddy action movie; it's more like an affectionate piss-take on the genre. Sure, this movie says, all of this is silly and quite implausible, but aren't you having fun watching it? And I had to reply: yes, I am.

Robert Downey Jr. is a petty thief in New York who wanders into an audition on the run from the cops, seeming to be method-acting, and finds himself in Hollywood on someone's expense account. Val Kilmer is a gay PI (everyone makes a big deal about how gay Kilmer's character is; it's that kind of manly movie -- oh, no one exactly minds, but everyone has to mention it, in bad-taste ways, at every turn), whom Downey will ride along with to get a feel for the work.

And then the real plot kicks in, which is complicated and implausible -- but, of course, that's the point. Without two or three double-reversals and fake-outs, we the audience might fall asleep, and this movie won't be having any of that. We get Downey's long-lost first love, now an aspiring actress. We get an ex-actor turned rich guy. We get a whole army of interchangeable thugs, there to threaten our heroes and to be shot. We get car chases, gun battles, and moving corpses. We get just enough self-aware narration to keep us reminded that this is a movie, and not to worry about anything too much.

Best of all, it's all done with style and flair, and a light touch. Downey's narration is nimble and funny, and disappears during the bang-bang parts, so as not to distract us. All in all, this is what an action movie would look like if it were made for people who were tired of action movies -- it's a meta-action movie. And I quite enjoyed it on that level. (The fact that it's frequently laugh-out-loud funny was a bonus.)

One interesting thing to me is that this is clearly inspired by the Mike Shayne mysteries by Brett Halliday -- the opening credits even say that the movie is partially based on a Halliday novel called Bodies Are Where You Find Them -- but the fictional Shayne-like detective (down to the designs on the book cover props) is called Johnny something-or-other. I suspect this is because the rights to the Shayne name are still tied up somewhere; there was a movie of three made from those books back in the '40s or '50s.

1 comment:

Sean O'Hara said...

Funny you should mention the Michael Shayne movies -- Fox is releasing a boxset with four of the first five films next week (the fifth was released singly last year).

How can you not love movies with dialogue like, "The stork that brought you should've been arrested for peddling dope"?

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