Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
If you try to take this seriously for even a moment, it will all fall apart. And that is probably the movie’s greatest weakness, in that from time to time it does seem to be taking itself seriously. But try to get past those moments. This movie exists mostly for fun, and when it’s on target, it’s a great deal of fun indeed. It is sardonically narrated by Robert Downey Jr., who constantly shatters the fourth wall by backing the film up, making marks indicating what he’s talking about, and just generally acting foolish. There are chapter headings, and they’re all titles of books by Raymond Chandler, which makes it an obvious homage. But this is not Chandler’s Los Angeles, even though the script is based on a novel by Brett Halliday, the prolific pulp novelist of the ’50s and ’60s and creator of P.I. Mike Shayne. Remember all those sexy old paperback covers? The people in this movie read those books, too. The dialogue varies between wisecracks and drollery.
What I liked best is that I was constantly being surprised. I would be set up to expect one thing, and something else would suddenly confound me. Just one example, and I’ll insert a SPOILER WARNING so that if you’d rather be surprised, you can stop here. Downey and Val Kilmer are trying to wring information from a man down on his knees. The dude won’t talk. Downey gets a bright idea. He empties the shells from a revolver, puts one back in, and spins the cylinder. Points it at the guy’s head. You wanna take your chances, punk? How lucky do you feel? Dirty Harry would fire and the guy would wet his pants and start babbling. Downey pulls the trigger and, to his horror, blows the guy’s head off. “What were the chances of that?” he wonders. Eight percent? No, you asshole, 16%. I laughed out loud. And again when he’s trying to recover his severed finger for the second time … Okay, it sounds brutal, but it’s a lot more fun than your standard thriller. As far as plot? Hell, we don’t need no stinkin’ plot. Not one that makes any sense, anyway. I hardly noticed that I seldom had any idea what was going on.