Saturday, October 4, 2014

7. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

Code-name: Fag & NYer
(btw, this is not meant offensively. It's actual dialogue from the movie's gay private investigator
"This isn't good cop and bad cop. This is fag and New Yorker.")

Based on the novel "Bodies Are Where You Find Them" by Brett Halliday
Writer/Director: Shane Black

Type: film noir spoof dramedy


Harry Lockhart (lead/narrator)- Robert Downey Jr.
Perry VanStryk "aka Gay Perry" (The Consultant)- Val Kilmer
Harmony Faith Lane (THE girl)- Michelle Monaghan
Harlan Dexter (The Movie Star)- Corbin Bernsen
Dabney Shaw ("He discovered me")- Larry Miller
Mr. Frying Pan- Dash Mihok
Mr. Fire ("I'm Mustard, baby")- Rockmond Dunbar
Girl in the pink wig- Shannyn Sossamon
[Honorable Mentions]
Young Harry Lockhart- Indio Downey [Robert's son]
Young Harmony- Ariel Winter [of "Modern Family" fame]

Laurence Fishburne as the voice of the Bear in the Generos commercials


"Origin" Story

The day I became a die-hard fangirl of Robert Downey Jr., I threw myself into research about him and his films. Based on accolades, characterization, storytelling and so on, I had a list of roughly 10 films I HAD to see.
Right behind "Chaplin" (which I saw the very next day), there was "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang."
I'm pretty sure what sold me on it was the scene they showed on his "Inside the Actor's Studio" appearance... search "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang audition scene" on YouTube

I wanted to see this movie so bad :P wherever I found it online a week later had obviously posted it illegally. [Ironically, I not found the DVD with no problem but HBO/Cinemax started playing it a couple years later]

Because I had seen it recently, I was immediately reminded of Andrew Dice Clay's film "The Adventures of Ford Farlaine"... it was another film-noir type spoof that happened to feature protagonist narration.
Had WB continued on with Johnny Knoxville in the lead role, KKBB could have become a carbon copy of that movie... instead, they played smart and went with a real actor with a considerable amount of talent for drama and comedy.
It's highly unlikely I'll ever promote any other Downey film as much as this one [except come Oscar time]. Not only because it's an indie film that needs the exposure and word-of-mouth, but it was so funny, so unique and cutting-edge... it felt like one of the best movies I'd seen in a LONG time.
It has gotten a little traction as a possible sleeper/underground classic in recent years.
* Nostalgia Chick had it on her list of top 11 movies (also at #7).
*When I bought the DVD at FYE, the cashier said how much he enjoyed it.

I'm just hoping Shane Black directing "Iron-Man 3" helped attract more viewers. Almost a decade later, Robert still believes only a dozen or so people saw this movie. :P

Narration, Characters and Story

First of all, the fact that Robert narrates this movie is one of my favorite highlights. He tells it like it is, but brings forth a great sense of humor when it's called for. Early on, he freezes the pictures a couple times, keeping us on our toes and often is good for laughs.

We begin with a flashback where it kinda helps to pay attention because, believe it or not, it features younger versions of our male and female leads.
This also happens to be the film debut [and so far only acting credit] of Robert's son, Indio.

Then our main story, which is being recalled, narratively, a year after it happened.

Harry Lockhart was a common thief from New York. He pulls a job that goes array, his partner gets killed and he stumbles into a film audition to escape the cops. [Helluv an audition too!!]. He impresses Dabney Shaw so much he gets flown to LA for a screen test.
Aspiring actress Harmony Faith Lane moved to LA to earn enough money to help get her sister into foster care away from their abusive father. Her biggest break was a spot on a Generos beer commercial.

Like a poor man's "Dos Equis"
"I prefer Genoros. But what do I know? I'm a bear. I suck the heads off fish."

After going out to LA, Harry gets assigned to P.I. Gay Perry (described as the "most butch gay detective") for detective lessons for this movie he's doing the screen test for.

During one of these "lessons," they accidentally stumble into a murder plot. The victim is the formerly estranged daughter of actor Harlan Dexter (who hosted the party where we meet our three main characters).

There's also a storyline involving Harmony's sister, Jenna and her apparent suicide. Because they were old friends, Harry agrees to help her with the case.
Supposedly, Harmony once told Jenna that their dad wasn't her father and that her real father was a movie star that came to their town to shoot a movie.

What ties it all together: Jonny Gossamer.
*Harmony grew up on the books
*Harlan Dexter starred in the movie based on them (along with, as Gay Perry points out, Michael Beck from "Xanadu")
*Harry says at one point that in each book, this detective takes on two seemingly unrelated cases, but almost always, they're connected in some unexpected way.
=The movie winds up following this formula and we're all led to believe Jenna was directly involved in the murder plot that killed Veronica Dexter.

"And Hilarity Ensues..."

While "selling soap" for his movies, Robert also uses this phrase a lot. In the case of this movie, it is so true.

Sadly, some of it is at HIS expense.

On the Sherlock 2 commentary, he name-drops this movie and goes on to say since its release, people seem to love seeing him get his ass handed to him. An odd comment to make as someone who believes NO ONE saw this movie. It's also inaccurate. I freaking hate seeing him get beat up and/or tortured on screen.

We start with him trying to protect Harmony at the party, delivering some tough dialogue and the following scene immediately discredits him. Just so sad :P I know he can defend himself in real life [practitioner of Wing Chun kung fu]
We get one really long, bad, day where his finger gets broken, stitched up, broken again by thugs, and ends with his first homicide (of one of said thugs).
What wound up happening with his finger after that... I was screaming at my computer and just short of dying of asphyxiation, I was laughing SO hard... I can't even give it away.
Then there's the infamous [or would be if more people saw this movie] torture scene involving electrocution in a very *sensitive* place.
Probably the most method Robert would ever put into his acting [aside from living and breathing an iconic role like Chaplin or Sherlock], he had his then-fiancĂ©e Susan pinch his back near one of his floating ribs to elicit the appropriate "painful" reaction.

He and Michelle Monaghan have great chemistry in this (probably the reason why they were cast together again as a couple in "Due Date") and results in more great funny moments.
One involves a spider, which she claims he was more afraid of than she was. And it was crawling on her.
The same goes with him and Val Kilmer as well. I believe I heard somewhere that Val Kilmer decided to make his character gay so he'd have an excuse to kiss Robert. Not as good as the RDJudsie Sherlock/Watson bromance, but still good.

The dialogue overall is so witty in a very self-aware fashion. A lot of the clips can be found on YouTube, but I'd still suggest watching the whole movie.
One has the line "look up the word 'idiot' in the dictionary" and another "I want you to picture a bullet inside your head."

The Rest of the Main Cast 

Anyone who read my "Batman Forever" review would remember Val Kilmer was my favorite Batman... it had been several years since I'd seen him in anything, so to me, he didn't appear to age well. But gotta love his sense of humor in this character.
Because of an interview the two of them did where they were comparing "Weird Science" to "Real Genius," I had to see the latter because I hadn't heard of it before that.
Both kinda stretch the limits of believability, but I still opt for "Weird Science" because it seemed way too far fetched that whatever Val Kilmer and the other characters were up to got the interest of the U.S. military.

This was my first experience with Michelle Monaghan, who I later saw in "Due Date" and that unbelievable sci-fi film "Source Code"... I still haven't been as impressed with her as I was in this particular movie. Harmony Faith Lane has more than enough sass to keep up with both of these guys.

It was also an interesting experience seeing Corbin Bernsen in this role. Up until this point, I'd known him as Shawn Spencer's dad in the TV show "Psych." We see some younger footage of him that was segued into a fake Jonny Gossamer movie, but let's just say he plays a completely different kind of character in KKBB.

Additional Comments

Granted, Harry Lockhart isn't perfect, but he's still one of my favorite Downey characters. Taking out of the equation the dumbass moments of jealousy and drunkenness [we only hear of this incident 2nd hand], his attitude towards women was refreshing.
There's a moment where he's with the body, sees that she's not wearing underwear and discretely covers her up with her dress.
His attitude with Harmony (outside those 3 jerkish lapses) is also respectful and protective. Back when they were growing up, he was her best friend that always listened to her, but she didn't seem to want anything to do with him beside friendship. Since she never asked him out.
When they share a room for the night, he doesn't immediately crawl into bed with her until she invites him in. It doesn't lead to sex and he's okay with that. Even though she subtly offers to "help him out" when he appears uncomfortable being in bed with her, he talks her out of it unless she really wants to.

I credit the "Girl in the Pink Wig" with part of the reason why I wound up liking "Scott Pilgrim" (Ramona Flowers has pink hair when we first meet her). This character has a small role, still important to the plot and one of the more tragic deaths [2nd only to Jenna and the rest being bad guys] we have.

It's also another credit to why I had this "hostile" attitude towards Colin Farrell. In addition to the episode of "In the Land of Women," this movie carries another strike against him in the following line of dialogue from Gay Perry.
"Harry, you're not getting the part... Colin Farrell wants too much money."
Supposedly the only reason Harry was given the screen test was to convince Colin Farrell to lower his "price tag" to be in this new movie.

I'll still take Robert over Colin any day, but since seeing him in "In Bruges" and "Seven Psychopaths" (in both, he gets to KEEP his Irish accent), my hostility has lessened considerably.

For whatever reason, Shane Black seems to have a thing for Christmas movies... Lethal Weapon takes place around that time, so did the latest "Iron-Man" and this movie too.
I also found a hint of irony in the setting- it being Christmas with him being in LA, found him in "Less than Zero" in that same capacity with pretty depressing results.
The opening credits are orchestrated with various illustrations, really well done.It also pays to stick through the credits because we get to hear him sing. He wrote "Broken" (track 2 of his album The Futurist) about his first wife, Deborah Falconer, but because of this movie, I always imagine Michelle Monaghan singing the female vocals. 

I have one final Downey film on this countdown that has a higher spot because it was my first movie of his. But KKBB has a great story with a lot of unexpected quirks, hilarious moments and twists. It also features some of his best acting. I wouldn't give it an Oscar necessarily, but he gives so much to this role and it really shows. Not in a big flashy blockbuster way, but in a bare-bones way with humanity and emotion in all the right capacities and places.


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