Kiss Kiss Bang Bang ★★★★★

When the first five minutes of this played out, I wasn’t sure what I was in for. Sepia filter? Flashback scenario? Smarmy fourth-wall breaking narration? Heavily stylised opening credits? I had every right to be nervous, but what followed left my scepticism deep in the dirt — the glorious realisation that these conventions weren’t unintentional. It didn’t take long to see that this was a scathing criticism of mainstream filmmaking, deserving of a place alongside The Player as one of the great Hollywood takedowns of all time.

I haven’t enough fingers to count the amount of times I laughed out loud at Black’s cocaine-speed dialogue, Downey and Kilmer’s unlikely pairing making Gibson and Glover seem totally unfunny by comparison. What struck me was the way Downey’s Harry defied every single stereotype of an action-hero in these buddy-cop movies, a thief posing as a private-dick, but more importantly, a good man posing as a killer. Harry’s principle of transactional sex being an ultimate sin, or his inability to look a person in the eye when he shoots them, completely defines the character’s moral basis, leaving us rooting for him every time despite his idiocy. Kilmer’s Perry is another character one wouldn’t often see in these LA crime flicks, actually breaking a record for the first openly gay protagonist in an action film. Sure it’s not quite PC, but it’s all part of the charm, and this is exactly the kind of creative content cancel-culture is at risk of destroying. With a striking performance from Michelle Monaghan as the good girl turned femme-fatale, every character has their place in describing the toxicity of LA, and everything the city of dreams is capable of doing to the best of us.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. There’s no comma, because there is genuinely no pause, the film grabs you and pulls you into its absurdist mayhem whether you like it or not. One thing to remember is that the film is kickstarted by a father’s backhand, serving as both a rhythmic beat and a depressing symbol for the parental negligence and abuse that pushes broken individuals to scurry to Hollywood in droves. This is an essential viewing for any fans of Chandler or Leonard, or any action film fanatic looking for something that can intelligently call out the tropes. The Nice Guys hits all of the same buttons, but there’s no way it has anything on this. One of the smartest scripts ever written, as black as they come and not a note played badly. Bad? 


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