Retro Review – Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Reviews Films


Whilst Robert Downey Jr and director Shane Black are raking in the box office dollars with IRON MAN 3, AccessReel remembers it wasn’t always so. Sian goes back to where it all began; taking another look at their first film together KISS KISS BANG BANG.

Less than a month into it’s release, IRON MAN 3 (written and directed by Shane Black) has already made over $800 million profit – an impressive addition to the resume considering it’s only Black’s second venture into directing.

His first was neo-noir homage KISS KISS BANG BANG also starring Robert Downey Jr.

Whilst the Black / Downey Jr pairing was successful enough to gain Marvel’s tick of approval to reunite for IRON MAN 3, KISS KISS BANG BANG was far from a financial success. The film cost a modest $15 million to make, yet scraped less than $800,000 profit at the box office (could have something to do with the God-awful, highly cliched trailer…. linked below for your viewing pleasure)

But since when did box office figures dictate the success of a movie? See below as Sian whips out a Reel Retro Review of KISS KISS BANG BANG.

In the funniest accidental detective story since THE BIG LEBOWSKI, KISS KISS BANG BANG tells of petty thief – turned – wannabe – actor – turned – wannabe – detective Harry Lockhart (RD Jr) who unexpectedly winds up in L.A for a screen test. Hooked up with detective lessons as ‘character research’ with a no-nonsense homosexual private eye ‘Gay Perry’ (a hilarious Val Kilmer), Harry finds himself embroiled in a full blown murder-mystery-noir-farce.

Referencing the working title of 007’s fourth outing THUNDERBALL, KISS KISS BANG BANG not only gives a hearty wink at the mystery genre, but at the film industry itself with the sarcastic ramblings of Harry’s narration highlighting flaws not only in this film but, indirectly, in all movie conventions.

This gives the film a feeling of elevation – as though it’s a bit smarter than the rest… and it knows it! The murder mystery genre has never floated my boat, whilst this satirical approach I found most riveting.

The script is clever, and the dialogue snappy and witty. The cinematography, complete with text chapter titles, is slick –  but the real genius is the cast.

RD Jr,  Kilmer and Michelle Monoghan have a genuine, highly infectious chemistry. Their fast paced scenes prickle with energy and sass. It is clear the cast ‘clicked’ on a level that few others achieve.

The savvy Shane Black used this to his advantage, with the use of two cameras simultaneously filming each actor, meaning the hilarity of improvisation is seamlessly incorporated into the final cut.

I’d be so bold as to declare Val Kilmer plays the best non-camp (yet oh-so-gay) on screen character I’ve ever seen, while Downey Jr takes a turn at playing a fast-talking idiot instead of his usual cliché of arrogant intelligence. As always there is never a dull moment on the RD Jr facial expression front, with his features never resting still for even a split second.

A gay Kilmer and an idiotic Downey Jr: it’s the oddest on-screen pairing you could ever imagine but by God it works a treat (take particular note of their scene on the city rooftop terrace in which Perry spills the beans to Harry about the real nature of his trip to L.A – a golden cinema moment!)

As with all tongue in cheek projects, the story gets a little ridiculous towards the end, but as all films require some level of suspension of belief, this shouldn’t cause too much eyebrow raising.

The style of comedy is as black as the director’s surname; it will either have you bursting at the seams laughing out loud, or you’ll be sitting there wondering when the jokes are going to start. It’s either your thing or it’s not. It sure is mine.

Get it out on DVD.

KISS KISS BANG BANG – I rate it 8 stars.


Sian's love for movies spawned from having a tight mother whose generosity stretched only to hiring movies once a week for entertainment. As a pre-teen Sian spent more pocket money then she earned on cinema tickets and thus sought a job at the cinema. Over the next decade she rose to be one of the greats in her backwater, six-screen cinema complex, zooming through the ranks from candy bar wench with upselling superpowers, to pasty projectionist, to a manager rocking a pencil skirt. Sian went on to study Journalism at university though feels her popcorn shovelling days were far more educational