Saturday, December 11, 2010

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang: 4/5


Basically, Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.) accidentally lands a role in some movie, gets shipped out west to L.A., meets Gay Perry (Val Kilmer), learns how to be a P.I., and reunites with his first love (Michelle Monaghan).  Oh, Shane Black (Predator) writes and directs.


1.  The Characters - A post is brewing in my head about how characters are the real meat of any story, be it written, spoken, or shown.  The characters in a story are what brings people back to it years and years down the road.  Harry, Gay Perry, and Harmony are the kind of people I want to hang out with for a couple of hours.  (I don't know how long this movie was, sorta like losing track of time while hanging out with friends.)  I can't say much about the characters that will explain why I like them, but I'll try.  Harry is a lovable Every Man who walks the fine (in the movies) line between irrelevant brilliance and hopeless incompetence.  Gay Perry has the competence and confidence that makes you want to be his friend, as well as the social resistance that makes him irresistible (especially when he agrees to be your friend).  And Harmony has the brains, the body, and the face of the girl you hope you marry.  Why wouldn't you want to hang out with these people?

2.  The Opening Sequence - It reminded me of my favorite opening sequence of all time.

3.  The Depth - I am POSITIVE that there is more to this than one viewing can reveal.  For example, the title comes from an Italian movie poster which, translated, said simply, "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang."  According to a famous reviewer, those four words are "perhaps the briefest statement imaginable of the basic appeal of movies."  That is, we watch movies to imagine ourselves living a life full of sex and violence.  A lot of bad movies will use sex or violence (usually both) to pump up a dead scene or draw in crowds that wouldn't otherwise watch the movie.  I like to call that "gratuitous sex or violence (usually both)."  Ironically, almost all the sex and violence in this movie serves some purpose within the movie, beyond mere gratuity.  (The lone exception I can think of is itself an allusion to how Hollywood exploits young actresses, which, some say, is Shane Black's theme.)  So, all that to say, a movie promising sex and violence from the title card that limits itself to meaningful sex and violence?  There must be more here than meets the first viewing.

Three Down

1.  End Credits - First, this was quite possibly the most disappointing end credits I've ever seen.  Please note my use of the word "disappointing" rather than bad.  The end credits were fine, but even bad movies usually get that part right.  Happy (bad) movies end with happy music; sappy (bad) movies end with some sappy song.  You want triumphant or introspective or celebratory music that resounds with the ending of the movie, not some random, disconnected song.  Maybe these end credits can be explained by 3-Up, but this fan-of-end-credits-music was not happy.

2.  The Plot - I know it's a parody, but I would have liked a little more sense.  At least, something a little clearer about what the plot was supposed to be.  I will admit, though, that using the telegraphed "hint" about the two deaths being connected (as in, a double murder) as a red herring was alright.  After a week's thinking, I'll also admit that the plot falls clearly within 3-Up as well.

3.  The Finger - I am really confused about (a) how a slamming apartment door could cut a finger off so cleanly and (b) how exactly he lost his right ring finger.  I can't figure it out.  Is Shane Black making fun of me?  Try it and let me know what happens.

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