Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

on October 21, 2005 by Sheri Linden
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Familiar L.A. gumshoe territory with a touch of "Get Shorty," the directorial debut of action writer Shane Black ("Lethal Weapon") starts off with a kick but ultimately runs on the fumes of pseudo-hardboiled attitude. Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer and Michelle Monaghan put across the zingy repartee with style and conviction, which isn't quite enough to turn "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang" into anything more than a pointless exercise.

Based in part on Brett Halliday's novel "Bodies Are Where You Find Them," the story centers on Harry Lockhart (Downey), who also serves as narrator, sometimes rewinding scenes or stepping back to explain what just transpired -- the kind of metafiction affectations that are more self-consciously cute than entertaining. The lone smoker at a poolside Christmas party in Los Angeles, Harry is in fact a New York thief who, on the run from cops, stumbled into an audition for a detective film and delivered an unwitting Method performance. The project's producer has assigned a gay private eye named Perry Van Shrike (Kilmer) to prepare Harry for his screen test with some on-the-job training. Before long they're both entangled in a mystery involving a car in a lake, a dead body in Harry's hotel room, and Harmony Faith Lane (Monaghan), the object of Harry's unrequited childhood affection and yet another one of those struggling actresses in movies who can afford a beachside apartment.

Harry and Harmony's shared fondness for a detective-novel writer named Jonny Gossamer compounds the notion of fact and fiction commenting on each other, although what they're saying isn't clear. For all the acting talent on display, none of it really adds up, and a good portion of the intended humor, such as a "Pulp Fiction"-derived scene involving two goons, is dead on arrival. "Bang" knows how to strike a pose, but not how to shoot straight. Starring Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer, Michelle Monaghan and Corbin Bernsen. Directed and written by Shane Black. Produced by Joel Silver. A Warner Bros. release. Crime comedy. Rated R for language, violence and sexuality/nudity. Running time: 102 min

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