Shiny Shelf


By Stephen Lavington on 09 November 2005

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

This awesomely titled pulpy detective flick comes courtesy of the pen and directorial vision of ‘Lethal Weapon’ scribe Shane Black – which makes it all the more odd that its closest point of reference is ‘Adaptation’. Or perhaps not, as Black had a hand in the last (and much less successful) attempt at a self-referential Hollywood ‘thriller’, ‘The Last Action Hero’.

This goes away to explain a shift in tone from the cartoonishly exaggerated ‘wink, wink’ knowingness of the 1993 Schwarzenegger turkey and this acid black comedy. Robert Downey Jr’s Harry Lockhart (“I’ll be your narrator for the evening”) has equal contempt for audience and film as his voiceover gleefully points out plot-holes and shouts down potential heckles from an audience used to picking apart Hollywood’s latest popcorn fuelled tripe.

Thankfully this device does not outstay its welcome and, after the first act, Black lets the film settle into the wisecracking rhythm familiar to viewers of his earlier films. Except here, rather than the black/white pairing of Damon Wayans and Bruce Willis (‘The Last Boy Scout’) or Murtaugh and Riggs he presents East Coast shyster Lockhart and gay Private Eye Perry Van Shrike (Val Kilmer) or as Van Shrike puts it, “This isn’t good cop, bad cop. This is fag and New Yorker.”

There’s a plot (in the loosest sense of the word) tying the whole thing together, and Black has a good eye for capturing a dust-hazy, neon lit Los Angeles not seen since ‘Beverly Hills Cop II’. The real joy here though is the dialogue, and its firecracker delivery courtesy of Downey Jr and Kilmer – both giving fine performances (a phrase I actually found painful to type).

Black has clearly not had a totally enjoyable time working in LA and doesn’t hold black from hurling abuse at the big-shot producers who host its parties, the shallow wannabes who populate its clubs and the vacuous movies it produces (more than a few of which, to be fair, he has had a substantial part in). Anyone who has ever chuckled at an action-adventure flick, whether at the dialogue or the plot holes will greatly enjoy what ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ has to offer.

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By Stephen Lavington

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