Shane Black wrote Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, Last Action Hero, and The Long Kiss Goodnight. That’s a pretty good pedigree. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is his first directorial effort, and it’s sorta Last Action Hero as an semi-indie crime flick. (Warner Brothers distributed it, so not really indie, but you know.)
It’s packed precisely full enough with metasnark. Any more snarkiness, and the schtick would be tiresome. Any less snark, and we might notice that the plot is about as thin as they get. (Which, in all fairness, is no doubt intentional — the whole movie is a deliberate self-referential homage to bad pulp detective novels.) The meta, the breaking of the fourth wall, works because it serves characterization: Robert Downey Jr.’s voice over is not constantly present, and it’s a device to bring his personality to the forefront, so that’s all right.
It’s also more homage, referring back to the Mike Hammer first-person narrative style. Our fictional pulp detective is Johnny Gossamer, which one might well see as the opposite of Mike Hammer, now that I think on it.
I can’t say much about the acting because — well, I suppose I can. Robert Downey, Jr., Val Kilmer, and Michelle Monaghan nailed their roles, delivered the dialogue with panache, and didn’t try and take over the movie. Which is good, cause the screenplay was the real hero, unsurprisingly. If I had to pick a standout, it’d be Val Kilmer, who bulked up and chewed his way through his role nicely. But they were all good. Oh, and a special bonus point to Corbin Bernsen for reprising his real life as a TV actor. S. pointed out that the movie clip in which a young Corbin Bernsen appears is no doubt an actual clip from an actual Bernsen TV movie, although nobody on IMDB has figured out which one.
My big quibble is that Shane Black made some very odd tonal choices. You’re cruising along with a black comedy, and then all of the sudden it veers into seriously dark not-funny stuff. I couldn’t figure out if he thought the seriously dark stuff was funny, or if he thought he had to ground the movie from time to time, but either way? No. It’s OK to do froth even if it’s your cred-restoring comeback flick. Maybe next time.
And in general, totally worthwhile.