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kiss kiss bang bang

Your February 2007 Unrandom Movie Club Results Are In!

Tagline: SeX. MurdEr. MyStery. Welcome to the party.


The Preshow Entertainment was the 1983 Academy Awards. We already watched some of it a year ago, so we just continued from where we left off. Frequent host Johnny Carson was all class as the master of ceremonies.

The pace was, well, how an awards show should be- lumbering. This was back before people cared so much about dresses. This was when there were tables, and people went up to get their award, and everyone got to speak, and no music came on to stop them. This was an awards show, which loosely translated means- a show about awards.

That said, Carson was pretty entertaining. After a few long speeches from the techie winners for THE RIGHT STUFF, he sarcastically deadpanned, "And don't go away, we'll be back with more technical awards!" Later, and I kid you not, Donna Summer sang "Papa, Can You Hear Me?" from YENTL.

The movie we watched was Shane Black's criminally undermarketed, noir-tastic KISS KISS BANG BANG. Shame on you Warner Bros. for neglecting this film. I hope someone was fired because of that.

When I first went to see this movie in 2005, I was a little unsure. Writer Shane Black directing his first movie after being MIA for a decade? Robert Downey Jr.? Val Freakin' Kilmer, who I'd just seen play the talk-singing Moses in the laughable live musical THE TEN COMMANDMENTS? This can't be good, can it? Yes it can! For KISS KISS BANG BANG is to movies what The Monkees are to music: self-aware, smart, silly, lovable, and a whole lot of fun. It's a friskier, funnier companion piece to Scorsese's also neglected AFTER HOURS. This movie does to noir what SCREAM did to teen horror films. Roasts it with love and affection.

Robert Downey Jr. as Harry Lockhart
Downey Jr. is perfect as manic ball of nervous chatter Harry Lockhart, a thief who accidentally becomes an actor after landing in an audition whilst fleeing the coppers. Harry is a soft boiled noir guy; trying to steal a toy for his niece, pining for his high school sweetheart, and getting angry when he learns she fucked his best friend what, 20 years ago?

The opening, a washy flashback dipped in beige, sets the tone with a one-two punch (Bang! Bang!) of a joke I won't ruin for you here. This is followed by an opening title sequence reminiscent of '50s and '60s private dick flicks and Bond films, with some PINK PANTHERy vibe thrown in for good measure. We're now buckled in for the ride.

Gay Perry (Val Kilmer) and Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.)
Harry is sent to go on assignment with, get this, Gay Perry (Val Kilmer, who I now forgive for Moses), a P.I. hired to teach Harry the ropes for a movie role. Soon, they find themselves knee deep in both a lake and a murder plot. At the same time, Harry has a serendipitous face to face with his high school sweetheart Harmony (who doesn't want "harmony" in their life? Someone who has a "lock (on his) heart"?).
Michelle Monaghan as Harmony
Harmony, a cocktail of girlish innocence, yappy energy, and perhaps a jigger of bad girl, is played by Michelle Monaghan (a/k/a my new girlfriend), who is a parcel of cuteness. Sure Harry wants her. Everyone wants her. I know I do. TRIVIA: It's widely reported that when asked what she wants to do to me if she ever meets me, Michelle Monaghan replied "kiss kiss bang bang," and that's how the movie got its name.

Like the Jonny Gossomer paperback novels the characters read in the movie, the plot to KKBB is an improbable guilty pleasure, cemented by Harry's over-the-top hilarious, self-referential voiceover. When Harry realizes he forgot to tell us something important in his VO- "Fuck, this is bad narrating. Like my dad telling a joke- 'Oh, wait back up. I forgot to tell you the cowboy rode a blue horse!'"

KKBB boasts many, many scenes filled with razor-sharp dialogue and preposterous yet satisfying moments. Take its spin on that old cliche, the Russian Roulette strong arm scare tactic. Harry, who remember is not a P.I but a thief-actor, wants info from a bad guy. When Gay Perry can't seem to get the info, Harry loads a single bullet into a gun and gives it a spin. It's a cliche more common than bedsheets-over-breasts, yet...when he screams at the guy to talk, he fires, and yes, shoots him dead. He didn't mean to. He just did what he'd seen in movies his whole life.

There are tons of turns like that, even in the dialogue. After Harry does something stupid, Gay Perry gets really mad at him and yells- "Look up 'idiot' in the dictionary. You know what you'll find?" Harry, realizing he did a bad thing, sheepishly replies, "a picture of me." And Perry counters, "No! The definition of idiot! Which you fucking are!"

Another scene shows Harmony watching a RoboCop-like RoboCop named Protocop on TV when the actual actor in the Protocop suit stumbles into her house in a stupor, trawling for beer and cookies (didn't Downey Jr. sort of do that? Could that be a....wink?). Turns out it's the down-on-his-luck actor who plays Protocop (that was the toy Harry was trying to buy for his niece at the beginning), drunk off his metallic ass. TRIVIA: Shane Black had a part in RoboCop 3, which was written and directed by his once-roommate Fred Dekker.

And towards the end of the film, Harry tells us in VO: "Don't worry, I saw Lord of the Rings. I'm not going to end this 17 times."

Hot Santa Harmony
KISS KISS BANG BANG pops and dazzles. It was one of my favorite films of 2005. I wouldn't mind if this movie had 17 endings. Okay, I'm lying. But you get the idea. You really must see this movie. And if I didn't give you enough reasons to, have one more- Larry Miller is in it.

Now the problem I have with movies like this is my problem...and not the movie's. The lines and even the situations are rattled off so fast it's hard for me to remember much. On second viewing, I realized I had forgotten most of what I would have liked to remember. I mean, it's not like, say, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man walks down the street. Again, this is no fault of the movie. The fact is, I can't find a fucking fault in this movie.

When I first came out to Hollywood, it was moments after the million dollar boys' club. Led by Hungarian self-proclaimed bully Joe Eszterhas, the club also boasted scribe Shane Black as a member. All I heard those first few months was "Shane Black this....." and "Shane Black that...." I hated Shane Black. Not because of his work (I adore the LETHAL WEAPON franchise), but because his name kept slapping me everywhere I went. I had to ask my agent to stop mentioning him. Then the Unmentionable Man went away, which perpetuated rumors too numerous to list. But then he wrote and directed KISS KISS BANG BANG. And now I feel guilty for wishing him into the cornfields.

Well, that's all for now. And to all you good people in the Midwest, sorry I said 'fuck' so much.

"I mean, it's literally like someone took America by the East Coast and shook it, and all the normal girls managed to hang on." ---Harry Lockhart, talking about how all the messed up girls wind up in Hollywood.

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