It just wouldn’t be Christmas without watching at least one Shane Black film. The director sets almost all of his films around this particular time of year and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is one of my favourites.
Harry Lockhart, played by Robert Downey Jr. is the narrator and main character of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and as in a lot of his films, is pretty much Robert Downey Jr. This movie was released in 2005 and I think it was a major contributor to him getting the role of Tony Stark in the Iron Man film. The character is erratic but well-meaning. The film also stars Val Kilmer as Perry van Shrike and Michelle Monaghan as Harmony Faith Lane.
Harry is a thief turned actor who, while on a detective lesson with Gay Perry (for a role) witnesses a murder. He and Perry follow the threads and uncover a plot that is very involved and even connects to a former best friend of Harry’s from his hometown (Harmony). The film naturally unfolds as the characters find out more about the conspiracy and start to piece it together. Things we saw early in the movie are worked back into the plot and everything gets tied up in a nice little bow (like a Christmas present). Harry cuts in and out of the story with his self-aware narration that lightens the film up in some of the darker parts. If you haven’t seen this before but have seen Black and Downey Jr.’s other film Iron Man 3 it will feel very familiar to you. Harry is telling a story that has already happened, in this case, he is making it into a movie.
Shane Black has a very interesting way of setting his films at Christmas which amplifies his creative choices. His noir style of characters on bright night time backgrounds is enhanced by Christmas Lights and snow. In Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, the LA Christmas Party settings are some of the most striking. While it is not often a major contributor to the films, and it isn’t in this one, Christmas (as Shane has said in interviews) make lonely people lonelier and, in some cases can make the bringing together of or reuniting of a family that much more important.
The three leads are fantastic together, mind you, I’m a fan of the actors in almost everything they’re in. While Robert Downey Jr. is very much his usual character in this film, there are some nice intricacies that shine through. Val Kilmer is probably my (and most likely everyone else’s) favourite character, “Gay” Perry is the ‘wise sage’ in this film who with his detective skills works out the case long before the audience of Harry does. Sure he makes mistakes from time to time but he’s a private investigator, most of them are schmucks anyway. Rounding out the cast is Michelle Monaghan whos character Harmony is a twist on the Femme Fatale trope. She’s sexy and smart but also fallible which just gives a nice little extra depth to the character, something you don’t often get in Film Noir.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a great crime-action film with interesting characters and a funny side. All set over the backdrop of Christmas, it is a must watch for this time of year. You won’t be disappointed.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: Above Average