Screenwriter Shane Black of LETHAL WEAPON fame makes his directorial debut with this film noir gem. Robert Downey, Jr, stars as Harry Lockhart, a petty thief who stumbles into acting and soon finds himself in Los Angeles, auditioning for a film role as a private detective. To help Harry prepare, his new agent arranges for him to shadow real-life P.I. Perry van Shrike, also known as 'Gay Perry', (Val Kilmer). But when Perry takes Harry along on a routine job for a mystery client, the two men witness the disposal of a dead body, and the game suddenly intensifies. Adding to the intrigue is Harmony Faith Lane (Michelle Monaghan), a beautiful and smart-as-a-whip wannabe starlet with whom Harry is so smitten that he pretends to be a real detective. Soon Harry, Perry, and Harmony are tangled in a life-threatening web of murder, deception, and treachery.
Downey is a delight, exhibiting perfect comic timing while infusing Harry with just enough heart to show that, despite appearances, he really is a good guy. Kilmer is the ideal buddy for Downey, playing the no-nonsense private investigator Perry with the right mixture of machismo and stereotypical Tinseltown superficiality. As Harry's dream girl, Harmony, Monaghan embodies the good girl whose dreams are looking increasingly unattainable and who has clearly been around the block more than a couple of times. Top-notch performances combined with Black's wickedly amusing banter and a plot laden with twists and turns make this action-thriller a treat.
As a screenwriter, Shane Black made millions of dollars from screenplays for the big-budget action movies Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout, among others. With his directing debut Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, Black mocks and undercuts every cliche he once helped to invent. While fleeing from the cops, small time hood Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr., Wonder Boys) stumbles into an acting audition--and does so well he gets taken to Hollywood, where--pursuing a girl he loved in high school (foxy Michelle Monaghan, North Country)--he gets caught up in twisty murder mystery. His only chance of getting out alive is a private detective named Gay Perry (Val Kilmer, Wonderland, The Doors), who sidelights as a consultant for movies. No plot turn goes untweaked by Black's clever, witty script, and Downey, Kilmer, and Monaghan clearly have a ball playing their screwball variations on action movie stereotypes. There's nothing profound about Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, but it brings back wicked mischief to a genre that all often takes itself too seriously. --Bret Fetzer