Monday, August 14, 2006

Now Playing: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

What is it about Shane Black comedies that makes them "almost ran's" in my book? The first Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout both have moments where they truly work, but for the most part come off as grab-bag cliche-filled explosion-fests where the heroes are screwed up but somehow figure out how to beat the bad guys in the end. The only work of Black's I've ever loved was his contribution to Predator, the success of which I attribute more to it being shot in the jungle far removed from studio interference. The less said about Last Action Hero the better.

So imagine my surprise when I watched Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang this past weekend and spent almost the entire time laughing my head off. This is Shane Black Unfiltered and the result is a film utterly unhinged that gleefully mocks the entire Los Angeles experience. Even when the film turns deadly serious towards the end, it quickly counters with a one-two punch of inspired comedy that do not cheapen the shocks. Instead, the comedy further proves just how out of his league the main character, Harry Lockheart, really is.

Lockheart isn't played by Robert Downey, Jr. so much as lived by Downey. Lockheart is a motor-mouthed petty thief from New York who stumbles into an audtion following a bungled robbery. He's convincing (hilariously so) enough that the producer (a vile Larry Miller) immediately sends him to Hollywood for a screen test. Lockheart gets partnered with a gay private investigator named Gay Perry (an equally inspired Val Kilmer) since the role is for a detective story. Shortly after arriving they become embroiled in a real life murder mystery involving Lockheart's childhood dream girl, played by delicious newcomer Michelle Monaghan.

Both Lockheart and his dreamgirl grew up as fans of hardened detective novellas so that's where they pull ideas from as bodies continue piling up around them. Lockheart's narration is priceless because he frequently breaks the fourth wall, so to speak, by sometimes interrupting his own thoughts during flashbacks with tangents and even telling people to get out of the shot. Black must have had a field day writing the script because the industry spoofs are as spot-on as those in Entourage. Imagine Ari Gold with gun and you have a good idea of the type of guy Lockheart is. You can tell that Black could have gone either way with the ending and he even admits as much via Lockheart's voice over at the end. Overall, the movie is a hugely entertaining, violent, pulpy, and raucously funny noir comedy.

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