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Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

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Is it I slept bad or I slept badly? My take: I didn’t sleep well. Hey, it’s likely the question most people will ponder after watching Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

Anyway! I was going to lead in with, had there not been a Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, there would not have been a Nice Guys, but that is probably not entirely true. See, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang royally bombed at the box office, bringing in a mere $5 million dollars—Robert Downey, Jr. uses more on hair dye these days—and it was up in the air if Shane Black was ever to direct a movie again.1

Here we are, though, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is, as I mentioned in my Nice Guys write-up, one of my all time faves. The two movies are nigh identical in form, yet still manage to feel different enough to come off as companion pieces, as opposed to rehash.

The foundation of both follow two investigators caught up in a typical noir murder case, with a burgeoning friendship ready to bloom. Yes, the bromance is the backbone here in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, too, right alongside the noir influences present from the first shot. (A loving reference to Sunset Blvd.) Darker undertones are a given, but really… This is Shane Black. Laughter will ensue!

And if general noir surrounds a protagonist with situations out of their control, then Kiss Kiss Bang Bang takes that stereotype, embraces it snuggly, and adds its own twist to it. The route petty criminal Downey Jr. takes to become an actor who gets paired up with Val Kilmer’s PI, Gay Perry, for research? Talk about some inspired scripting and acting. By the time they’re knee-deep in a murder investigation—and a cover-up, natch—you won’t be entirely sure how you arrived there, but you will have enjoyed the ride.

The gallery of characters… What a set of pros! Not only does Corbin Bernsen do his Corbin Bernsen thing, we also get the great Michelle Monaghan as the prerequisite femme fatale. Of course, even when Shane Black has all the ingredients for a noir, he will still go all Great British Baking Show on it, mixing everything up, making sure Monaghan is not a trope. Her and Downey’s chemistry takes second place only to the aforementioned bromance here, and the trio’s relationship is truly both funny and likable.

Which one is the better movie, then? Kiss Kiss Bang Bang or The Nice Guys? That’s hard to say; the latter is grittier, where the former is slicker, and the setting might well be what will sell you on which one to pick. LA in the 70’s or LA in the early oughties? It’s a hard choice, and you owe yourself (and me) to watch both. Multiple times. Then either make your mind up or write long meditations on it like I’m doing right now. Either way, you’ll come off as a better person than those who haven’t watched both.

1 Of course, the domino bricks started falling here: Downey went to Iron Man, where he got Black to direct the third movie of the trilogy. I assume Iron Man, and not Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, is the reason we saw The Nice Guys.

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