Classic Intel: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang - DVD Review

'Looking down Kilmer's role list it is difficult to pick out a better performance.'

In 1996, Shane Black wrote, but crucially did not direct, The Long Kiss Goodnight, a sharply scripted action-comedy with a miss-matched leading pair (Geena Davis and Samuel L. Jackson). The Long Kiss Goodnight was a fun film with some notable flaws but it was also something else. It was practice.

The thing that was being practised for, although Black cannot have known this at the time, was Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, another sharply scripted action-comedy with a miss-matched leading pair (Val Kilmer and Robert Downey Jr.). Whilst The Long Kiss Goodnight was the warm up, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is the main event. It thrills for the entirety of its one-hundred and three minutes, the script never drops from being utterly hilarious and the superb casting hits high note after high note.

Black (writing and directing this time) signals his intentions to make something above and beyond the typical action film when he breaks the fourth wall within the opening minutes, 'I'll be your narrator', Downey Jr.'s Harry Lockhart tells us, 'I don't see another Goddamn narrator, so pipe down'. Shortly followed by the introduction of genius casting choice number one: Val Kilmer as homosexual private detective, Gay Perry. 'Still gay?', asks Lockhart, 'Me? No. I'm knee-deep in pussy', Perry replies, 'I just like the name so much, I can't get rid of it'. Thus forms the beginnings of a beautiful friendship.

Whilst Downey Jr. is good as the out-of-his-depth lead, it is Kilmer who makes the film and gets all the best lines. Lockhart has miss-heard Perry telling him that he is 'talking money'; 'a talking monkey?', he asks. 'Talking monkey, yeah, yeah. Came here from the future, ugly sucker, only says "ficus"', comes the witty response. Any one with any doubt as to whose film this is should look to one of the very last scenes, a confrontation between Perry and Harmony's (Michelle Monaghan) father. There's no real reason why Perry has to be in this scene - it could just as easily be Harry - but he is because the character has made everything else crackle to life throughout, just as he does here. Looking down Kilmer's role list it is difficult to pick out a better performance.

The dense plot, orchestrated perfectly by Black, can be difficult to follow but the reveals are well-paced and the intrigue high. A late bought of having Perry and Lockhart jump in to and out of custody too quickly forms a rare miss-step.

Other than this, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is the perfect action-comedy, up there with anything else you care to name of similar ilk. There's even no marginalisation of the female lead (Monaghan), who gets as many killer lines as the male duo and has as much impact on the plot, a sadly too rare occurrence, which Black should receive serious praise for.

Look further...

'Be certain, "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" isn't merely nudge nudge wink wink cinema, it is shove shove I'M WINKING AT YOU cinema' - Cinema Romantico


  1. That's a really good point about Monaghan. Well said.

    And don't you miss the Val Kilmer that liked to try?

  2. I do indeed miss that. You know what I could have handled from this... and I say this full well knowing that the best it could have been was very average... a Gay Perry feature spin-off.