Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang

MPA Rating: R-Rating (MPA) for language, violence and sexuality/nudity.

Reviewed by: Todd Patrick

Moral Rating: Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:
Primary Audience: Adults
Genre: Action Romance Comedy Crime Thriller
Length: 1 hr. 42 min.
Year of Release: 2005
USA Release: September 21, 2005 (wide)
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures

CHANGE HOLLYWOOD—What is being done to change the values of “Hollywood”? Answer

effects of casual and extreme use of vulgar and profane language

What should be the attitude of the church toward homosexuals and homosexuality? Answer

Read stories about those who have struggled with homosexuality

Featuring Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer, Michelle Monaghan, Joel Michaely, Corbin Bernsen
Director Shane Black
Producer Joel Silver
Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures. Trademark logo.
Warner Bros. Pictures
, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company

“A bad week in a tough town”

Copyrighted, Warner Bros. Pictures

My dad was a voracious reader of science-fiction, fantasy, and pulp fiction. When I was younger, he got me hooked on the mystery novels of John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee, Donald Hamilton’s Matt Helm, and Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer. This was pulp fiction at its best. There was a tough guy, a mystery, some bad guys, and a girl. These novels walked right up to the line of decency and danced on it, but were never blatantly erotic or violent. (As a Christian, I would never recommend them… they are the world’s idea of macho and sexy.)

Joel Silver’s Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang pays homage to these serial novels, while (of course) updating the storyline to involve current cultural issues. The movie is written and directed by Shane Black, who action movie fans will remember as the creator of the “Lethal Weapon” series as well as the writer of “The Last Boyscout” and the “Long Kiss Goodnight”. What all these movies have in common is rapid-fire dialogue and a snappy wit that is the hallmark of Black’s writing. (He’s like Aaron Sorkin in that respect: if you’re not paying close attention, one-liners will fly right past you.)

Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang is the story of Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.), a thief who is in the middle of robbing a toy store for his nephew’s Christmas present when the alarm is triggered and he and his accomplice are forced to run. A woman with a gun stops them from her second story apartment window and tells them to wait for the cops. Harry tries to explain to her that they are not dangerous, but she shoots his friend by mistake. Harry watches him die, then takes off running.

As the police cars zero in on him, he bursts through a warehouse door and runs smack into a producer, who is doing readings for his new action movie. Not wanting to face the cops, Harry does an impromptu cold reading of a script which deals with a cop who let his partner die. Having just witnessed his friend die, Harry breaks down and gives the director just what he’s looking for (unintentionally).

He is flown to L.A. and is introduced to “Gay” Perry the private eye (Val Kilmer). Perry has been paid to let Harry tag along with him and learn the ropes of his trade, which will hopefully make his screen-test more real.

On their first outing, they witness a car being dumped in a lake and discover a dead girl in the trunk. This starts a chain of events that actually adds up to a pretty decent mystery. I won’t give any more away (for those who still wish to see the movie, after hearing all I have to say.)

Black is more than competent as a director, and his script is fast and furious in its wit and in its demands on the viewer (to constantly be paying attention). The theater I was in (which was the size of a suburban backyard swimming pool, with a screen barely bigger than the largest home theater from Best Buy) was in stitches for the entire film.

Robert Downey is terrific as Harry, and Val Kilmer is amusing as Gay Perry. Michelle Monaghan is Harry’s beautiful love interest: a childhood friend who went to Hollywood to become an actress, only to end up in her 30s with no experience but a really bad beer commercial.

Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang is a difficult film for me to review. On one level, I did enjoy its wit, its pacing, the mystery itself, and its great cast. But, once again, the Hollywood machine shoots itself in the foot by going way too far. I guess I can only blame Shane Black, since he was both writer and director. There’s just too much crassness and objectionable material to make this the fun action movie he wants it to be.

Why shouldn’t you see this movie?

  1. There’s Gay Perry. The only only reason for this character being gay is that it leads to many “funny” moments like kissing Robert Downey and distracting a man who is torturing Downey by trying to “out” him. I didn’t find any of this necessary and actually thought the movie would have been just as entertaining if Kilmer was a straight detective. Black uses Gay Perry as a completely unnecessary caricature of homosexuality.

    GAY—What’s wrong with being gay? Answer
    Homosexual behavior versus the Bible: Are people born gay? Does homosexuality harm anyone? Is it anyone’s business? Are homosexual and heterosexual relationships equally valid?

    What about gays needs to change? Answer
    It may not be what you think.

  2. There is blatantly offensive nudity. I think that by the end of the film, every area of a woman’s body is shown—totally unnecessarily. Sometimes the nudity is with dead women. It is very offensive in this respect.

  3. The language is very bad. The “f” word is used in almost every sentence, along with just about every other curse word you can think of. (This is no surprise, though, looking at Black’s other work.)

  4. There are things used for humor which border on the macabre. Monaghan slams the door on Downey Jr.’s finger, cutting it off. They put it on ice and get it sown back on, only to have it ripped off again and (no, I’m not kidding) eaten by a dog. At the end of the film, a casket with a dead girl inside is perched over a freeway tunnel (don’t ask). Downey Jr. falls over the edge and grabs the dead girl’s arm, which is hanging out of the casket. He then saves the day while hanging from her arm for a good 5 minutes.

To sum up, I doubt that any Christian should view this movie. Although its fast pace and quick wit are to be applauded, it stumbles like so many other films by catering to what Hollywood THINKS we want to see: sex, violence, the unexpectedly gross, and a funny gay character (who is now being written into almost every comedy that is released).

With a little rewriting, this movie could have been just as amusing and MUCH less offensive (like the first 3 seasons of Aaron Sorkin’s “West Wing”: not much objectionable material, but razor-sharp, rapid-fire dialogue). As it is, don’t waste your time, your money, or your heart on this trash. The apostle Paul, in Philippians 4:8 tells us that…

“whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Grow up, Hollywood! And bring some class and morality back to your films as a substitute for the crude, the crass, and the immoral.

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Extreme / Sex/Nudity: Heavy

HollywoodCELEBRITIES’ VIEWS—What do “Hollywood” celebrities believe about spiritual issues? Find out

HOLLYWOOD DISCONNECT—Why is there a disconnect between “Hollywood” and the rest of America? Answer

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—I loved this movie. It was very smart and had great plot twists. Morton Downey Jr., although a troubled soul in real life, is an incredible actor. Val Kilmer was also good in the movie, and I didn’t find the “gay theme” as outrageous as others obviously have here. Definitely not for the kids or weak in spirit. …
My Ratings: Average / 4
Suzie Schwartz, age 39
Positive—This is one of those movies that, as it defies categorization, people either do understand or they don’t. Yes, it is primarily an action comedy, but it does also have moments of drama. Many people feel like, if there are laughs in a drama or tears in a comedy, that it is inconsistent or uneven. Not the case, but that’s neither here nor there.

The point of this movie is to take what an action movie is and turn it on its head. A tough-as-nails detective? Let’s make him gay and see how it holds up. A protagonist who is a seasoned criminal? Let’s make him a victim of circumstance.

There are several situations in the film that echo other action films. The difference here is that the payoff is completely different. The scene where a character throws a gun into a lake because it is evidence is pretty standard. But, what if the owner of the gun actually wanted to keep it and became upset?

The idea of using a revolver with one bullet to get information out of a bad guy has been done before, but certainly not like in this movie. That’s where most of the comedy in the film comes from: setting up scenes we’ve seen countless times before, then completely blowing up our expectations.

And, yet, in the midst of all this, Shane Black still manages to create compelling characters. The protagonist, Harry, truly does care for his childhood sweetheart. Many of their scenes are amusing, but that’s mostly because the characters themselves are laughing. These scenes feel true and unforced.

Yes, there is a theme of child molestation in the film, but it is never played for laughs. In the scene where the molester is confronted, it is played completely serious, implying that the filmmakers find nothing funny about this subject.

That’s the brilliance of this film. It manages to be an interesting drama, an effective action film, and an uproarious comedy (provided that the viewer can actually let themselves laugh).

And, yes, the film is offensive at times. There’s a lot of language and a lot of violence. But, that’s the idea. A G-rated parody of an R-rated film genre would equal out to a movie that is completely inconsequential.

This is a great movie, for those that get it. For those that don’t… well, it wasn’t meant for them, anyway.
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 4
Tyler Smith, age 24
Neutral—Sometimes life seems like an endless sifting out the bad and seeing what’s left. Like Todd Patrick said in his original review: “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” That is what I tried to do.

“Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” is just chock full of evil and rot, but then there are moments of Truth. Harry really loves Harmony. The bad guys don’t win. Even the uncomfortable feeling of viewing the excesses of Hollywood is Truth. It took me a week to get over watching this visual assault. I knew it was rated R. I wanted to see it, because it was the first movie Robert Downey Jr. made after breaking his drug habit.

There are comedic moments between Harry and Perry (“If you need anything, hesitate to call!”), and Harry and Harmony (“Off the hook? I’m always on the hook, the hook is my home!”). But it’s not just a comedy. Shane Black has plenty of serious points to make. I think the point of the crass Hollywood parties was to say, “You think this is offensive? Hollywood *is* offensive.” Harry is just as alarmed by them as we are. ***SPOILER*** It also bothered me that it was unclear what happened to Harmony in the end. ***END SPOILER***

In Shane Black’s original screenplay (found here), we see more of Harry and Harmony, but why they changed it, I don’t know. I can only surmise that Shane Black decided to stay within the Film Noir genre where the girl is a Femme Fatale and the protagonist doesn’t end up with her. I never saw her as a Femme Fatale, though, just another messed up girl who stayed in LA too long.

What will stick with me is Harry’s love for Harmony. He protects her before he even knows it’s her. He respects her. He gets up off the pavement to rescue her. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul tells us “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

Harry was flawed to be sure, but it was refreshing how he treated Harmony against the backdrop of evil and corruption. That is the thing I will think on.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
Ann Barndt, age 49 (USA)
Negative—My wife and I were very excited to come and view this film, and had prepared ourselves for the negative aspects; we both are mature enough Christians to allow the vast majority of negative aspects to roll off our backs without a negative influence. So take it as a very, very bad sign that this became only the second film we have ever walked out of. (The first we left for being objectionably stupid, not for moral reasons.)

The film was absolutely repugnant. The dialog was clever and humorous (albeit dirty), but the film was graphic for the sheer value of being graphic. We made it through only about half of the film, but in that time, we saw: below-the-waist frontal nudity of a female corpse; full frontal female nudity; a severed finger; the graphic re-attachment of the finger; simulated male-male oral sex; numerous simulated sexual acts in a club; the discussion of sexual molestation of a child—in a COMEDY, no less (we were not shown the molestation directly, but did see the father actually pick up the sleeping 5-year old and leave the room); the groping of a passed-out woman; and the substantial bad language mentioned by the reviewer (bad enough that it even annoyed me—and “The Usual Suspects” is my favorite all-time film!).

There are few movies which I believe that a Christian cannot find any pleasure in; I have always believed that a mature enough Christian can enjoy most films. This, however, is one of the few which would make me question a positive reviewer’s commitment to Christianity.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 3½
Mike, age 25
Negative—This film was supposed to be a comedy? I didn’t find it “funny”—disgusting and vulgar, yes—but not “funny.” I thought that a comedy was something you watch for pure entertainment purposes, how could you find any of the content in this film funny? Well, okay, I admit that I did laugh at a couple of things that I probably shouldn’t have, but a lot of the jokes in the film are too gross to actually consider jokes, just gross crude comments and situations. …The only reason that I didn’t leave this movie was that I “never” walk out of movies no mater what, this really was a “no matter what” kind of movie.

…We can’t let our minds get desensitized to this kind of garbage like everybody else is doing, A Christian should be able to tell when something is right or wrong, a Christian should be able to tell while watching this movie that it is wrong. I am trying to be really careful with the kind of films that I watch from now on, no more going to a known bad movie and saying “this is the last one.” to REALLY break it down: Do Not See This Movie… Please?
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 2½
Elon Hall, age 19
Negative—When I rent a movie that I have not seen a preview for, I try to expect nothing. …Well, that is exactly what I got. I like the actors, however the film was a poor attempt to be artistic (such as “Fight Club”—great movie and style). There was no true substance to the film, but if you want to waste your time go for it. It was DUMB!
My Ratings: Average / 1
Stephen, age 24
Movie Critics
…a merry deconstructive delight and easily the best party in town…
Boston Globe, Ty Burr
…a smart, hilarious and affectionate spoof of detective movies—and Hollywood…
New York Post, Lou Lumenick
…A self-consciously chatty action film… a rich, pulpy meta-movie that’s a guilty pleasure…
Chicago Tribune, Robert K. Elder
…a slick, clever, twisty, violent and gleeful romp that never loses momentum…
Film Journal International, Kevin Lally
…the smartest, fastest, funnest Hollywood update on ’40s film noir…
Boston Herald, Stephen Schaefer

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