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Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

You'll Never Die in This Town Again

Shane Black is best known for penning the screenplays for the Lethal Weapon films. Black's gift for dark humor, action, and ill-matched partners is on excellent display in his directorial debut, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. While Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is too quirky of a film to launch a franchise (a la Lethal Weapon), it is a refreshing departure from the bland action films that crowded multiplexes this past summer.

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang starts off with a bang (forgive me) as Harry (excellently played by Robert Downey Jr.) bungles a toy store robbery and stumbles into an audition for a detective flick. Harry taps into his inner thespian and manages an audition that would make Brando weep. Harry could not be more fortunate as his career as a middling toy store thief had clearly run its course.

Swept off to L.A., Harry meets Gay Perry (Val Kilmer), a gay detective who has been tasked with giving the inept Harry "detective" lesson. Things get complicated when the thief cum actor finds himself and Gay mired in a true mystery replete with three dead bodies.

The story itself is nothing exceptional, but as this mystery takes place in L.A., it would only be appropriate for the clearly cynical Black to bite the hand that feeds him. Black wantonly skewers the Hollywood personalities, clichés, and egos that populate the city. Black's dark humor elevates what would have otherwise been a routine detective/buddy/action film into a hilarious action film.

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is also elevated by excellent casting and performances. Kilmer is hysterical as the gay detective who's seen everything Hollywood has to offer and then some. He is the yin to Harry's bumbling, incompetent yang. Naturally, no detective film would be complete without a drop dead gorgeous dame in the mix, and Michelle Monaghan fits the bill as Harmony Faith Lane. Her performance is not exceptional, but this trio plays well together and the banter between them never fails to entertain.

Shane Black's directorial debut is nothing short of a glowing success. His writing on the Lethal Weapon films and The Last Boyscout was clearly just a glimpse of what he's capable of doing. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is a winner on all fronts and with any luck will give Black more opportunities to exhibit his quirky and acerbic wit.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars