0

You might know Shane Black's work from a little movie he wrote called Lethal Weapon (1987), starring a 'mulleted’ Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. Along with Die Hard (1988) it helped changed the face of the Hollywood action film, evolving it from a more straightforward genre filled with (almost) mute macho heroes, to one where slightly crazy guys would crack dark jokes about the predicaments they were in only to make things worse.Since then Black has gone on to become one of Hollywood's most “sought after” and successful action movie writers, penning the three Lethal Weapon sequels, The Long Kiss Goodnight and the high-reaching but woeful The Last Action hero starring one Arnold Schwarzennegger. After a five-year break he turns his hand to directing with feature Kiss Kiss Bang Bnag.Kiss Kiss Bang Bang doesn't start with a shot ripped from the opening scenes of Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard (1950) for nothing. It too is a pulpy noir movie with plenty to say about the fake machinations of Hollywood and told in flashback. In his best role since Short Cuts (1993), Robert Downey Jr. is Harry Lockhart our narrator, a petty crim from New York who accidentally stumbles into the acting biz in LA. Researching his latest role as a private detective, he is paired with 'Gay Perry’ (Val Kilmer in one of his best performances also), a private dick who doesn’t' mince words, hired to make Harry credible. And as coincidence (and the paperback genre would have it), Harry also runs into his childhood sweetheart 'Harmony Faith Lane’ (Michelle Monaghan), a struggling actress. Then the bodies start to fall around them and a plot to die for unfolds before our very eyes.Kiss Kiss Bang Bang doesn't only have the perfect title for a movie, it's also pretty close to a perfect movie. It's as if this film is alive, anticipating our every reaction to its incredibly intricate plot - Downey's hardboiled and hilarious voice over sees to that. But this isn't merely an exercise where Black gets to show off what a smarty-pants post-modern director he is. The film also delivers as a legitimate noir, with all the conventions necessary and plot twists we can handle. In fact once the 'break out’ scenes (where Downey directly addresses the audience) are dispensed with, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang suddenly becomes an intriguing crime thriller with some seriously dark undercurrents. Comparisons to fellow screenwriter Charlie Kaufman cannot be avoided here, as Black's script is equally as playful, eccentric and “geometric” as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. But he is also a surprisingly talented director as well. The action scenes are inventive, the performances by one and all superb, and - this is what I really admire Black for – the violence is shocking and with aftermath. There aren’t too many action movies around these days where the hero has a moral crisis over someone who gets caught in the crossfire…Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is vulgar, funny and full of surprises. All pulp and no seeds. Just how a paperback thriller on screen should be.