Opening Thoughts: 2005 turned out to be a mixed bag in regards to films released in the US.
King Kong failed to ignite the box office as expected, while
raked in cash by the truck load. Then along comes a movie like Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang which received acclaim from both critics and fans, but barely reached 200 theaters and went unseen by the masses. Now that the film is available on DVD, does it live up to the buzz it created?
Movie: Trying to summarize the plot of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang would be an exercise in futility. You know, like trying to skate on an ice rink filled with Jell-O. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is one of those films where the less you know about it, the better the experience is. In a nutshell, it's just like any other great drama, mystery, black comedy, suspense, action, noir, romance, thriller. There's plenty of violence, parties, cigarette smoke, cars, murder, severed limbs, bad guys, fog, werewolves, gunplay, sex, torture, robots, fist fights, cops, hospitals, cell phones, ninjas, booze, pirates and pretty girls. Phew... Okay, so I lied. There aren't any pirates or ninjas in the film. But, I'm pretty sure if there were, a lot more people would have saw Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang in the theaters.
One thing that Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang does so well is it doesn't take itself that seriously. This is a film rife with cliché's, but acknowledges what they are and has fun with them. Just when you think something is going to play out like expected, the filmmakers throw in a zig where you thought it would zag. For the most part, this helps the film remain somewhat unpredictable. Even more entertaining is having the narrator (Robert Downey Jr.) be self aware of the film as well as the audience. This engages the viewer directly and provides a more personal experience while watching the film. Not to mention it's pretty hilarious hearing the narrator curse at himself or ask questions to the audience. On the other hand, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang did feel a little to convoluted at times. However, due to the film's laid back disposition towards itself, it never felt like much of an issue.
Writer/Director Shane Black does a wonderful job in his directorial debut. Everything from the pacing, editing, shot selection and composition stuck me as being first rate. The film feels like it was helmed by someone with far more experience than Black. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang was based in part from Brett Halliday's novel "Bodies Are Where You Find Them". While I've not read the book, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang doesn't feel like it was adapted from any source material. This is no doubt due to the fact that Black has been writing screenplays for almost 20 years, including all the Lethal Weapon movies.
Robert Downey Jr. is better than ever now that's he's supposedly clean and sober. He delivers a very solid performance as Harry Lockhart, the main character of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. Co-starring is none other than the "Iceman" himself, Val Kilmer. I've been saying for years that Kilmer has been knocking out some wonderful performances in smaller pictures such as
The Salton Sea and
Wonderland. Proving my theory right, once again he delivers another stellar performance in Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. Downey and Kilmer share quite a bit of screen time together and that's one of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang biggest strengths. The pair displayed great chemistry together and it shows what two talented, seasoned actors can bring to the table. Michelle Monaghan (no relation to Dominic Monaghan of "Lost" and "LOTR's" fame) play's Harmony Faith Lane and she lights up the screen with her good looks. Unfortunately, I felt that she was somewhat outclassed by her fellow actors Downey and Kilmer. While this doesn't necessarily hurt the film much, it would have been nice to see a more experienced
actress in the role.
Video: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is presented on DVD in its original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1. I have to say, this transfer looks absolutely gorgeous. The cinematography in Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is beautifully shot to begin with and this DVD really lets it shine. The lighting is outstanding in this film and so are the uses of various optical filters. Colors look vivid and natural, while detail levels are excellent. Compression artifacts as well as any edge enhancement were non-existent.
Sound: The Dolby Digital 5.1 track on Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is a good clean mix that provides a crisp sounding audio experience. Most of the film is dialogue based, but when needed the track delivers a strong sound field. Surround channels are sparingly used, but when they are active they're used effectively. Also on the DVD is a French DD 5.1 track and a Spanish DD 2.0 track. Optional English, French and Spanish subtitles are also included on the DVD.
Extras: For some reason, Warner Bros decided to skimp out on the extras for Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. What you do get is a great commentary track by Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer and Shane Black. Downey and Kilmer are hilarious at times, going back and forth cracking jokes and having a good time. Shane Black does a good job interacting with the two actors' and somehow manages to slip in some golden nuggets about the production. This includes one particularly interesting fact that they actually used CGI pubic hair in a scene. Now that's certainly not something you hear in every commentary... Also included on the DVD is Gag Reel that runs a little over 4 minutes. There's quite a few laughs, most of which are provided by Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer. Finishing up the lackluster extras on Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is the theatrical trailer presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen.
Final Words: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang only grossed about a third of its $15 million dollar budget in the box office and I find that to be a shame. Much like another of 2005's overlooked movies
The World's Fastest Indian, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is a refreshingly fun cinematic experience that seems to be so rare these days. With its release on DVD, I think Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang will finally find its audience and get the recognition it deserves. Even though this DVD is lacking in the extra's department, the film itself has great replay value and I can't recommend it highly enough.