A very funny directorial debut from "Lethal Weapon" writer Shane Black, "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" remains one of 2005's most underrated pictures, getting only a minor release and grossing $4m. The picture opens with Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey, Jr.) botching a robbery, sending him and his partner scurrying off into the NYC night. Attempting to escape from the police, he runs into a casting call and manages to wow everyone there, resulting in a lead role in a new detective picture.
Before he knows it, Harry finds himself in Los Angeles, being trained for his new role by gay private detective Gay Perry (Val Kilmer) and finding himself confronting his old sweetheart, Harmony (Michelle Monaghan, of "Mission: Impossible III"), who's now an actress. However, while training for the role, Harry and Perry soon find themselves stumbling across an actual murder mystery and being chased by actual bad guys. To say anymore about the plot would ruin the fun.
Knowing that it's clearly treading across ground previously travelled by many, "Kiss Kiss" decides it's going not take itself seriously and have fun with conventions, starting with a self aware narrator (Downey) who often pauses the picture, addresses the audience ("Don't worry. I saw the last 'Lord of the Rings'; I'm not gonna have the movie end like, 17 times.") and even other characters on occasion. This would never have worked without Downey, Jr.'s best performance in ages. Truly getting into a character that seems made for the actor, Downey's fast wit and dry, deadpan delivery make smart, funny dialogue even funnier. He's backed up by ace supporting performances from Kilmer and Monaghan, both of whom have solid chemistry with Downey.
Hip without being too full of itself, "Kiss" also benefits from absolutely gorgeous 'scope cinematography, beautiful locations and solid production values, certainly looking more expensive than its relatively small $15m budget would suggest. Overall, "Kiss Kiss" is a wild, occasionally quite violent, darkly (sometimes very darkly) funny and stylish ride, with great performances. It's surprising that it wasn't given more attention upon release. Hopefully it'll find an audience on DVD.
VIDEO: "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" is presented by Warner Brothers in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Despite not being quite perfect, this transfer is mostly about as good as it gets. Sharpness and detail are absolutely terrific, as the picture appeared crisp and well-defined throughout the entire show.
The presentation does show a few minor artifacts and a couple of instances of minor shimmer, but other than that, it looked crisp and clean, with no edge enhancement or other issues. Colors look bright and well-saturated, with no smearing or other issues.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation takes advantage of the material, with the surrounds kicking in for effects during the action scenes and contributing some reinforcement for the score throughout. Audio quality seemed first rate, as effects were punchy and crisp, while dialogue sounded clean and undistorted.
EXTRAS: Actors Robert Downey, Jr. and Val Kilmer join writer/director Shane Black for a very funny audio commentary as the three bounce jokes and ideas off each other throughout the picture, chatting about production stories, visuals, the characters, working with each other and more.
An extremely silly and amusing gag reel is also included, as is the trailer.
Final Thoughts: A darkly funny noir film with three stellar lead efforts, "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" came and went without much notice during its brief theatrical run. Hopefully it'll find more of a cult audience on DVD. As for the DVD, it offers excellent audio/video quality, as well as a couple of cool extras. Recommended.
The Film B+