Seasonally-obsessed Shane Black pays post-modern homage to the era of yellow jacket noir and wraps it in a red Christmas bow
A VERY SLICK WISECRACKING GAME OF CRIME INDEED
AT A FLASH PARTY, a man (Robert Downey Jr) , clearly thoroughly bored and all-at-sea loiters alone on the edge of a garden swimming pool looking as if he’s about to fall in. His voiceover intones: ‘It’s hard to believe that it was just last Christmas that me and Harmony changed the world. We didn’t mean to. And it didn’t last long. A thing like that can’t. Now that I’m in L.A, I go to parties. You know the kind, where if a girl’s named Gill, she spells it J Y L L E, that bollocks. That’s me there. My name is Harry Lockhart. I’ll be your narrator. Welcome to L.A. Welcome to the party.’ A Santa hat floats past.
A year ago, small-time New York crook, Harry and his accomplice were inside Margot’s Toy Shop at night looking for a Cyber Agent in the dark as a Christmas gift for Harry’s young niece, Chloe. It’s a beginning not so very different from the theme of Jingle All The Way (1996) except when the duo have to make a run for their lives from the cops, Harry bursts in on an audition. The script so mirrors his life that he gets the part right there. Before he knows it, he’s whisked off to L.A to shadow private detective, Gay Perry (Val Kilmer, in what looks set to be the role of his career) in preparation for the film. And then Harry bumps into childhood friend, actress Harmony (Michelle Monaghan), who left small town, Indiana for Hollywood in the hope she could make her fortune and so help younger sister, Gemma escape their father’s sexual abuse. Life is playing both Harmony and Harry a very strange game indeed. It turns even odder when bodies start showing up.
Along For The Ride With Harry And Co
Screenwriter/Director Shane Black’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) is a slick, wise-cracking, post-modern neo-noir that unashamedly pays homage to its heritage (chapters are named after Raymond Chandler book titles) while sharply bringing the genre bang up to date. Based in part upon the novel, ‘Bodies are where you find them’ by Brett Halliday. Black’s plot is a zany jigsaw puzzle that is a bit too tangled, but at face value, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is pure and clever unadulterated entertainment.
The point is that the very Jonny Gossamer pulp fiction novels that bewitched Harmony and Harry as children, and have a major role to play in this film provide the framework for the pairs’ escapades without them seemingly being aware. No wonder the title of the Jonny Gossamer novel Harmony filches from the host’s bookcase during one of those flash parties happens to be ‘You Wouldn’t Want to Live There.’
Love Affair Which Ends In Bromance
Although the film takes place over the course of four days in the run-up to Christmas, the festival otherwise has a light presence with, most notably, Harmony looking gorgeous in a sexy Santa hat and skimpy red, white fur-edged outfit at a party on Sunset Plaza, which only emphasizes how her dream of making it big in Hollywood has fallen flat. Both she and Harry are directionless people.
But that would be without what turns out to be a growing bromance between Harry and ‘Gay Perry’. In a torture scene in which a very scared Harry is on the brink of experiencing a genital-electricity-water interface, Perry flings out at his captor: ’Hey, why don’t you give the kid a break? Do unto others and all that. It’s Christmas, you know.’ Later, the two of them in hospital after a mass shoot-out, Perry will wheel into Harry’s room. Half-surprised to see him, Harry can only ask ‘Hey, hey ,hey, it’s Christmas. Where’s my present, dick?’
The detective spits back: ‘Your fuckin’ present is you’re not in jail, fag hag.’ Lovingly.
For it turns out that Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is actually a buddy movie with Harry’s “dreamgirl” Harmony having strangely disappeared during the Epilogue. For, as Harry sums up: ‘That’s it. That’s the story of what happened last Christmas. If I had to sum it up – and I do – it’s like The End, I would say that this movie is about friendship. Friendship is sacred.’ As he explains to Perry who butts in on this connection with his audience: ‘I’m just trying to wrap up the movie and leave the people with a message.’ Yeah, but it’s been a heck of a lot of fun getting there.