The term "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang" was first coined in the 1960s by the
Japanese press as a nickname for James Bond. Director Shane Black loved
the term and chose it as the movie's title because, "it so clearly
represented what this film is." And what exactly is this film? Good
question. For starters, it's original. It's a nice change of pace from
all of the sequels and remakes we've been inundated with recently. I
needed this breath of fresh air after being blind-sided by the news
that a remake of Robocop might be on its way.
It's also funny and action-packed. The pace comes at us almost as
quickly as the clever dialogue, making it nearly impossible for the
average viewer to get bored. You may be offended, you may not
appreciate the dark humor, and you may not get the style, but I would
predict the majority of you won't get bored. Will I refund your ticket
money if you *do* get bored? No, absolutely not. Don't be silly. I'll
just say, "Oh well, I guess you're just in the minority on this one!"
What I like most about Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is it's so hard to
"genre-lize." See what I did there? Add that term to the Movie Mark
Dictionary. When you can't "genre-lize" something then you can't easily
force it into any one specific genre. Clever, huh? That's what makes
Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang so fun. Is there action? Yes! After all, it's by
the same guy who wrote the Lethal Weapon movies. But it's not an action
Is there humor? Indeed. The laughs mostly come from the chemistry
between Val Kilmer and Robert Downey Jr. and some of the crazy
situations they find themselves in. This is my kind of dark humor. I
love to be caught off guard by unexpected moments that make me laugh at
things that might not be so funny if they were witnessed in the real
world. But this isn't a comedy. The humor is never forced and doesn't
have to resort to slapstick or flatulent puppies just to get cheap
laughs. Sure, there's a scene that involves peeing on a corpse, but it
has to be seen in its context to be appreciated.
If I were forced to affix a label to this then I suppose I'd say it's a
darkly comedic murder mystery. It takes itself just seriously enough to
keep you in suspense, but it's irreverent enough to simply be fun and
entertaining. It works well enough as a farce without ever coming off
as a pure parody.
My main complaint is that the story does get a little too confusing. I
admit that I openly mocked other reviews that called the story
"needlessly complex," but now that I have seen it I totally understand
what these reviews are talking about. You'll want to pay careful
attention or you'll get lost pretty quickly. I'd even suggest taking
notes. If you're not careful you'll become so immersed with keeping up
with the rapid-fire dialogue that you could lose focus on the plot
details. It's not mind-blowing, but there are just so many characters
and minutiae to keep up with that it's easy to lose track of what
exactly is going on. If your friends call you "ol' goldfish attention
span" then you could be in trouble.
I'm not going to lie to you and tell you that this movie is for
everybody. The language gets pretty rough, there is strong sexual
content, Val Kilmer is a detective who just happens to be gay and jokes
are made at his expense, there's a decent amount of gunplay, and some
people just might not appreciate the unconventionality on display.
But I loved the fact that this wasn't formulaic and that the look and
style was different than the norm. Black admits to de-saturating the
colors in post-production to give the film a crude, rough look. Perhaps
some might like their movies a little more bright, but I thought it was
quite effective at giving the film the pulp detective story vibe that
Black was going for.
I wouldn't recommend this to my mother, so I won't pretend to know
whether this fits *your* taste either. It all depends on how you view
these kinds of things. Is it gratuitous or knowingly over-the-top?
Clever or too clever for its own good? Cheesy or comfortable in its
self-awareness? Ask yourself what it takes to offend your senses and
let that be your guide.