Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang ★★★½

I came away from this one feeling much like I did after watching His Girl Friday—I knew that I had enjoyed it, even though I had virtually no idea what was going on most of the time. The dialogue is delivered so fast you have to really strain your ears to pick out the crucial plot points amongst all the fourth wall breaking and snappy witticisms. The plot has so many twists and turns, you’ll be lost if you miss even the briefest of conversations (I left the room for ten seconds to boil the kettle and immediately regretted it). But it’s a lot of fun. A shamelessly self-aware action comedy that is essentially one giant amalgamation of all of the most familiar crime noir tropes. It’s the sort of filmmaking that will easily rub people up the wrong way—it’s excessively smug about its setup and just loves to keep reminding the viewer of how smart and subversive it is being. Even its title is a deliberate provocation—taken from the words of Pauline Kael who reportedly saw the phrase on an Italian poster and immediately recognised it as the perfect encapsulation of “the basic appeal of the movies”. It’s precisely this “basic appeal” that Shane Black plays about with here.

And it works… mostly. Even though the film’s purposeful “style over substance” approach and lack of coherence is entirely intentional (Downey Jr. calls attention to this at several points in his narration) it nonetheless ended up frustrating my sluggish end-of-day brain at times. Some of the humour hasn’t aged all that well either (“Gay Perry” is a... curious one). Ultimately, however, you’ve really only got to treat this as seriously as it treats itself—i.e. not at all.

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