KISS KISS BANG BANG (10/21/2005)
Director: Shane Black
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer, Michelle Monaghan

My Rating: 9/10
Rotten Tomatometer: 85% Certified Fresh

PLOT: A murder mystery brings together a private eye (Kilmer), a struggling actress (Monaghan), and a thief masquerading as an actor (Downey Jr.).

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“Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” is so good, it’s a total freaking mystery how this same director, Shane Black, wrote and directed one of the worst movies I’ve seen in the past 20 years: 2018’s “The Predator.” Just had to get that out of the way.

I envy you if you haven’t seen this movie yet, because one day it’ll be on Netflix or something, and your curiosity will get the better of you, and you’ll experience for the first time one of the great comedy mysteries ever written. The dialogue flies faster than an episode of “Gilmore Girls”, so prick up your ears and stay on your toes, cause this train waits for no one. The laughs are big and genuine. The surprises are legion. The mystery itself is a bit of a head-scratcher the first time around, so maybe watch it again, and you’ll get it. Trust me…you’ll want to watch it again.

Downey Jr. and Kilmer exhibit the kind of unforced chemistry that deserves comparison to Newman and Redford. If they decided to stage a two-person show consisting of nothing but the two of them interrupting each other, I’d pay to see it. The actor in me gets a rush watching them play off each other, with Kilmer tossing off some of the great movie insults of all time. Example:

Harry (Downey Jr.): “Do you think I’m stupid?”
Gay Perry (Kilmer): “I don’t think you’d know where to put food at, if you didn’t flap your mouth so much. Yes, I think you’re stupid.”

The screenplay is one of the many delights of this movie. It’s full of “meta” scenes and dialogue. A scene occurs, and the movie pauses while the narration tells us, “That is a terrible scene. Why was it in the movie?” Or the movie is clicking along and suddenly it pauses again and the narrator tells us, “Oh, s**t, I skipped something! That’s bad narrating.” Brilliance. To paraphrase Bugs Bunny, they do that kind of thing all through the picture.

“Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” utterly flopped in 2005, grossing a paltry $4.2 million domestically, against a $15 million budget. What the heck happened? You’ve got charismatic leads (especially Downey Jr., who was, even then, starting to resemble the Tony Stark we know and love), a beautiful girl (Michelle Monaghan, hubba HUBBA), an intriguing mystery, lots of laughs, surprises galore, a snarky screenplay…this should have been a hit. Did Warner Bros. refuse to advertise it? Or did they advertise it incorrectly? (20th Century Fox did that with “Fight Club.”) Was it – gasp! – too smart for the general public?

Who can say? Regardless of box office performance or name recognition, “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” will always stand, for me, as one of the greatest comedy mystery meta-noirs of all time. (Of course, with that many genre tags, it may BE the only one of its kind…)

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