Reviewed by: Todd Patrick
|Featuring||Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer, Michelle Monaghan, Joel Michaely, Corbin Bernsen|
|Distributor||Warner Bros. Pictures|
“A bad week in a tough town”
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?
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.
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.
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.)
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
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.