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I’ve now seen Kiss Kiss Bang Bang three times. A lightly noir dark comedy, I still cannot trace all the threads back and forth to tie the plot together without help from Wikipedia. So even if this Shane Black multiple murder mystery fails to unravel on your watch, the ambiguity doesn’t stop it from being one of the most creatively funny gems out there.
Starring Robert Downy as Harold Lockhart, the academy award nominated actor plays a petty thief turned actor whose voice over invites us right through the fourth wall to set the film’s irreverent tone. “I don’t see another narrator so pipe down,” he says as his spotty retelling leaves out an important plot point, and the story is forced to backtrack. (The film literally stops mid frame and rewinds).
Entrenched in the flighty social dysfunction of the Hollywood scene, the stage is immediately reinforced. “I’m at another of those parties where if a girl’s name is Jill, she spells it Jyle,” Harry is resigned to his fate.
Go West Young Man/Woman
But he doesn’t forget his Iowa roots and Harmony, the crush of his life. “When in doubt, slaughter a pig. That was our Motto,” Harry voices over when he meets up with her again in pursuit of the oft Hollywood dream of escaping the farm.
Of course, Harry blows it and wakes up obliviously next to her bitchy friend. “I don’t remember anything between 2AM and five,” he fails to deflect by omission.
Cast aside, Harry engages with “Gay Parry,” on background work for his upcoming role. A gay private investigator, played by Val Kilmer, political correctness is put aside to great comic affect. “That’s my fagot gun. It’s good for a couple of shots, then I drop it for something better,” Parry is matter of fact on his derringer and all matter of gay stereotypes.
Nonetheless bodies begin piling up and Parry isn’t happy that Harry serves as the focal point. “Shit, your acting better be improving,” he has little patience for the would-be actor.
An heiress to a Hollywood honcho’s fortune and her double are next and reveal to Harry that his director was using him to bring down Colin Farrell’s price.
Obviously miffed, Harry parts ways when Parry also lets Harmony in on the lie to give separation to his client. “I was protecting my employer. Hello. He pays me to insulate him from corpses,” Parry succinctness is not appreciated.
“Well, now you can go back to your gay job,” Harry comes up short.
Of course fate or format forces the players back together and has Harry losing a finger, hung from an overpass and electrically wired to his baby makers under torture. But he gives back too – only without the benefit of proportionality.
Hoping to extract answers from one of the film’s goons, the 8% odds he calculates on the single bullet makes for a faulty bluff and dooms the poor man. “Where did you learn to do math…and stop multiplying” Parry is horrified.
Mystery Solved a la Noir?
However, Harry redeems in a missing pair of underwear and then taunts his audience. “Well, have you solved the case of the dead people in L.A. yet – Times Square audiences stop yelling at the screen,” Harry quips.
Unfortunately, it’s not enough to save Parry – or is it? “Your Christmas present is you’re not in jail,” Parry is risen from the dead after being gunned down in the dark comedy.
The voice over has it covered, though, “Yeah, boo, hiss, I know. Look, I hate it too. In movies where the studio gets all paranoid about a downer ending…so the guy shows up, he’s magically alive on crutches, I hate that. I mean, shit, why not bring them all back, Downy drips in sarcasm as Lincoln, Jesus and the body count all wonder in.
All the more reason you don’t have to get the plot straight and just sit back and bang this one out.