Stuff I Watch in December: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

Happy Holidays and welcome! We are counting down the days until December 25th and, in that time, I will be reviewing each and every Christmas/holiday film I watch during the month. They’re mostly a selection of films in my own library or films and shows that have been recommended to me.

Please enjoy and leave a comment!

And if you missed any of our past reflections, take a look:

Holiday Inn (1942)
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
The Bishop’s Wife (1947)
White Christmas (1954)
Santa Claus (1959)
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)
Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny (1972)
Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983)
I Believe in Santa Claus (1984)
Lethal Weapon (1986)
Die Hard (1988)
Ernest Saves Christmas (1988)
Scrooged (1988)
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
Home Alone (1990)
Die Hard 2 (1990)
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown (1992)
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)
Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
Jingle All the Way (1996)
The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)
Home Alone 3 (1997)
Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas (1999)
Olive the Other Reindeer (1999)
Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tales (2002)
I Want a Dog For Christmas, Charlie Brown (2003)
Elf (2003)
Love, Actually (2003)
Home Alone 4 (2003)
Bad Santa (2003)

Our next film is…

WATCHING: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2005)

kiss kiss bang bang

DIRECTOR: Why, it’s Shane Black again! This is his directorial debut. If you remember, I sung his praises for his scripts on Lethal Weapon and The Long Kiss Goodnight.

WHAT IS IT?: This is the third “Christmas film” on my “Shane Black Christmas Quadrilogy”.

THE PLOT: Serial ne’er-do-well artist Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey, Jr.) somehow bumblefucks his way into a screen test and wins a chance at a role in an upcoming Hollywood smash. Except…he didn’t REALLY mean to do that. He was in the middle of a robbery and found his way there after fleeing the police. But, hey, he’s in the game now, so there’s that. At a cushy Christmas party in the Hollywood Hills, Harry meets “Gay” Perry van Shrike (Val Kilmer), a gay private detective, and his new counter-part of sorts: he’s there to tutor Harry for his upcoming role. As fate would have it, Harry also reunites with his old childhood crush, Harmony Lane (Michelle Monaghan) who is chasing her dream of becoming a big Hollywood actress.

Things get twisted when Harry goes on a stakeout with Perry where they witness a man dumping a car containing the body of a young dead woman in Big Bear Lake. Attempting to “rescue” the girl, Harry attempts to shoot the lock on the trunk — but ends up shooting the corpse by accident. Fleeing from the scene, Harry and Perry believe they’ve figuratively dodged a bullet — until the corpse shows up in Harry’s bathroom, having been dumped there as part of a frame-up by the shadowy people involved in her murder, leaving the duo to deal with it AGAIN…and, then, there’s Harmony, who hired Harry to figure out what happened to her sister, a major cog in the entire equation.


WHAT DID I THINK?: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang snuck under the radar in 2005 and is Black’s directorial debut. Made after the “bomb” that was The Long Kiss Goodnight (still have no idea why the critics hated the film), Black tried to make a straight romantic comedy at the behest of his friend James L. Brooks (“As Good As It Gets”). After giving Brooks several scripts, Brooks felt Black just wasn’t cut out for the genre and told Black to imagine Jack Nicholson from Chinatown in As Good As It Gets. At that point, Black decided to do another action picture, salvaging the love story he had and combining it with the story of a murder in Los Angeles being solved by two cops, which evolved into the film you see here.

The film is a loving tribute to the gritty, noir works of Donald Westlake and Raymond Chandler and is actually (partially) based on the pulp-style detective novel “Bodies Are Where You Find Them” while several of the “chapters” in the films are titles from Chandler’s books. The film’s style emulates the spirit of these books well and is mostly shot at night with nice use of light and shadow.

Robert Downey, Jr. and Val Kilmer are great here together with the former bringing his usual witty rapport and smart-ass bad-boy demeanor to his role. Like everything he’s in, you either want to slap him or cheer for him based on the decisions he makes. He can’t help himself. Even when he’s valiant or attempting to do the right thing. He’s also hilarious — especially when he narrates the entire film and breaks the 4th Wall, constantly talking to us, the viewers, as if we’re right there with him.

Kilmer is perfect as Perry, playing his role as a gay man who doesn’t take his sexuality all that seriously and is comfortable with who he is. My only gripe with it is that he’s a straight man playing a gay man while cracking jokes which are easily offensive to the LGBTQ community. Michelle Monaghan rounds out the prime cast as Harmony who Monaghan plays as incredibly street-smart and witty and it makes me happy that she isn’t reduced to being a “damsel in distress” type.

The plot could use some work as it twists and turns to the point of being convoluted and one could easily lose their way if they aren’t paying attention — but it’s the “buddy cop” formula which ultimately wins out and with Black penning this sucker and applying the same witty-banter writing style he applied to Lethal Weapon and The Long Kiss Goodnight, the movie ends up being nothing but fun in the long run.

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