Noir films make the best holiday films, don't they?
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005): A murder mystery brings together a private eye, a struggling actress, and a thief masquerading as an actor.
Happy holidays everyone! The annual tradition continues here at Enter the Movies. For those that are new, (first off, welcome!) every year I take a brief look at a film that is something of an unorthodox holiday film. Past reviews include Die Hard, (which, let's be real, is a holiday film) L.A. Confidential, When Harry Met Sally..., American Psycho, and The Bourne Identity. Now, let's add Shane Black's explosive debut Kiss Kiss Bang Bang to the list, shall we? So gather round the fire with your chestnuts and eggnog, and let's talk about a violent noir film that just happens to take place around Christmas!
The calling card of this film is its screenplay. Writer/director Shane Black (at the time the established screenwriter of the Lethal Weapon franchise was making his directorial debut) puts on a clinic in how to craft and execute a well-made screenplay. The dialogue is fluid, the acting is natural, (Robert Downey Jr. is basically playing himself in the title role of Harry Lockhart, which always helps) and the pace is almost incomprehensibly rapid. Harry Lockhart (RDJ) narrates the entire film, and this narration style is the calling card for a Shane Black film because of its boldly unique fourth-wall-breaking method. (It's basically Scorsese on steroids) While there are moments where the narration is VERY distracting, (Pointing out a weak moment in the script does not make it better, it makes it worse) I found myself laughing and gasping more times than not. And the editing brings it all together. The transitions here are seamless. If I've learned anything over the years of watching film, a great screenplay can be tanked by poor editing just as much as it can be propped up by it.
Let's talk about RDJ for a second. Harry Lockhart is basically Tony Stark's origin story. The parallels between the two characters are rather uncanny. But, if anything, it goes to show that this acting style works and makes it easy to understand why RDJ was ultimately cast to play one of Marvel's central figures. (And become the top-grossing actor in the business) Gay Perry (Val Kilmer) and Harmony Faith Lane (Michelle Monaghan) both deliver this Shane Black dialogue with grace as well. While they are both great, the treatment of Harmony's character, and the film's casual treatment of sex (clearly from a man's perspective) is where this movie really shows its age.
And age well, it has not. I get it. It's 2005. We've come a long way since then. However, that doesn't forgive a film for treating its only woman this poorly. Shane Black makes a joke out of how Harmony has slept with seemingly every guy on the planet besides Harry, who of course she offers to sleep with at one point because what else would you expect her to do? Oh, and of course Harry says no because she admits that she slept with his best friend back in high school, and that really upsets him. And it's funny! Aren't you loling so hard right now? Ha! That's one of several moments throughout the 103 minute runtime that were so cringe-worthy I almost had to stop the film to compose myself. (There's a casual Harvey Weinstein-esque producer in this too, of course.) This film rears its ugly overt sexism quite a bit, which is a damn shame because when it's not it's really enjoyable. Because outside of a frustrating MacGuffin that leads to a messy epilogue, the execution here is flawless. Shane Black bursts out in a big way here, even if it fails the Bechdel Test in rather spectacular fashion.
The Critique: Shane Black's directorial debut wreaks of sexism, but still manages to be somewhat enjoyable thanks to its unique storytelling style and fun lead duo.
The Recommendation: I mean, it's worth a watch, just.....brace yourself for dat sexism dough.
Rewatchability: Moderately Low
The Verdict: 6/10 Above Average.
Happy holidays everyone!! Drink some more eggnog for me!
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