Have you met Shane Black? No? Then let me make the introduction for you. He's the guy that wrote the original Lethal Weapon. Okay. Got your presumptions in order? Okay. Now let me tell you how you're wrong, bitch... Despite being paid ridiculously large amounts of money to write some very over the top and hokey action films, Shane Black is very SMART.
I shit you not, dear reader. As a self-admitted film snob, I think that action films are generally the most worthless artifacts of pop culture in existence next to the Olsen twins. AND, I might add, you can rub one out to the Olsen twins, but unless you're a stunted halfwit who played high school football, then joined the army to kill some "rag-heads" you aren't going to be whackin' it to movies like Commando or Doom. My spite now illustrated clear to you, trust me when I say: Shane Black is NOT contributing to the retardation of America.
The sad truth is, the Hollywood machine rarely has the post-modern interest to realize that most of Black's films were frying the circuits of irony-meters left and right. By the time his scripts became the big budget action summer flicks, every last ounce of deconstruction had been sterilized.
Let's look a little closer. Lethal Weapon seemingly follows the paradigm of buddy-cop movie. The LOOSE CANNON teamed with the ABOUT TO RETIRE VET, gunplay and hijinx ensue. But if you peel back the Mel Gibson ass shots and banal action scenes you'll see this very interesting love story. The familial style love that Danny Glover's warm home offers a suicidal loner, and brings him back from the brink. Black loves to play with cliché. He wants to set us up, he knowing plays out the cliché because he is trying to show trick us into experiencing a movie that may actually be a bit different. Black tried again with The Last Action by unleashing Arnie as, well... himself. Self-parody in Hollywood is nothing new, but a horrible actor and a giant budget sort of destroy the subtlety.
With Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Shane Black is finally able to make the movie he has been trying to pull off for almost 20 years. As writer/director, Black has ensured that every action/buddy/crime/noir film cliché is played out perfectly to its typical end... but then he turns it on its with results both humorous and horrible. (Humorous for us, horrible for the characters).
What makes these beats, and the movie as a whole, work so well, is that unlike say, Quentin Tarantino, Shane Black isn't masturbating all over his own script. Sure the dialog is characterized and glib- but it comes from the mouths of the characters, and not the director's own cock.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is the story of Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.) a low-rent thief who literally stumbles into a casting session while on the run from cops. When the script lines he's to read ironically mirror the shooting of his partner not moments earlier, the casting agents confuse his angst as bonafide method acting. So Harry is off to LA, where his agent seats him with a real life private investigator "Gay" Perry (Val Kilmer).
Within hours of meeting each other, they stumble upon two seemingly unrelated murders, and Harry falls into dysfunctional like with a wannabe starlet, who actually turns out to be his high school crush. Like any good mystery, the seemingly unrelated murders are connected, not only to both men, but Harry's wish-she-were-his girlfriend as well.
A lot of the set-ups seem textbook noir, and this is purely intentional. We know it. The characters in the film know it, and yet things unfold.but the beauty of this film, as well as the frequent comedy, comes from the fact that the characters react to these situations, as they should because of the noir-template. THEN we are reminded this is the REAL world, and those choices are stupid and just cause more trouble. Most of this is done by Harry, who thinks he knows how to handle these situations, but doesn't. He throws the gun into the lake so the cops won't find it‚Äîyet he tosses it right nest to the car they will be dragging the lake for. He talks tough almost everyone he meets, and nobody buys it and proceeds to beat the shit out of him.
What Shane Black does here makes me tingle in my no-no spot because it isn't hard to set up a cliché. It also isn't hard to play a cliché out to set it on its ear. But it is hard to do this, but at the same time deliver the goods a genre promises. While it is poking fun at the crime/noir/action genre, it still packs in all the best hits. There's an over the top car chase, violent gunplay, blood a plenty, tits, and a villain with a ridiculous plot. So even putting aside all my talk of postmodern irony and what-not, KKBB is great film with a good proper mystery, and some very skilled acting.
If you're a noir fan, you'll be pleased as punch. Several reviews say it is very "Chandleresque," and I will add to that be pointing out that if they ever picked up a book they'd realize all the chapter breaks in this film share titles with Chandler novels.
On the negative side of things, several reviews have accused the film of being homophobic with the character of GAy-Perry. Perry is in fact gay, but Val Kilmer is not. So perhaps to some, Val rattling off gay jokes from time to time seems like somebody in blackface telling black jokes. I didn't find it a problem because the character was not played in any sort of gay stereotype. Instead, he was a noir detective stereotype with snappy dialog and a chip on his shoulder.and just happened to be gay. Of course, one could argue that if he just happens to be gay, what's the point‚Äîclearly there must be an agenda. Personally, I thought a gay character being the "action" hero of the film in itself a perfect response to the 80's cock action movie in general. If Shane Black had a point, I think that may have been it But I am white, middle class hetero guy. So I could be totally wrong. An episode of Will & Grace does more to destroy America's perception of homosexuals in a half hour than this film could ever do.
Seth lives in Los Angeles. He is a writer of comic books (and unsold screenplays) and...
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