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Warner Home Video presents
"And you? How about it, filmgoers? Have you solved the case of the...the...dead people in L.A.? Times Square audiences, please don't shout at the screen, and stop picking at that. It'll just get worse."
DVD ReviewThe advertising for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang makes a lot out of the connection between it and Lethal Weapon. Although they share a producer (Joel Silver) and a scriptwriter (Shane Black, who also serves as the director here), this comedy/thriller/noir is much more fun than the original Lethal Weapon film and its sequels. Powered by a snazzy script and three dynamite leads, Kiss Kiss hardly lets up for a minute, with periodic mystery sequences punctuated by constant comedy, virtually all of which is laugh-out-loud funny.
Petty New York City thief Harry Lockhart is on the run and winds up in an audition for a role as a petty crook. Impressed by what seems to be Method acting, the producers send him to Hollywood for a screen test and, as part of his Method prep, to ride along with gay private detective Perry Van Shrike (Val Kilmer), better known as Gay Perry. Their first assignment finds them in the middle of the murder of a young girl. Along the way, Harry runs into his dream girl from his youth, Harmony Faith Lane (Michelle Monaghan), a wannabe actress. Ineptly trying to strike things up with her, Harry bungles it badly. But she quickly comes back into his life when her sister is found dead also, apparently having committed suicide. When the earlier dead girl turns up in Harry's shower, things start to get very complicated indeed, and indications start to crop up that the two dead girls may be related in some way. But someone's not satisfied with framing Harry, and they're trying to kill him too. It seems to have something to do with an old series of pulp mystery novels and a cheesy movie shot in rural Indiana years before. Can they manage to solve the crime before Perry kills Harry out of frustration?
The fun starts with Black's script, with sparkling bits of dialogue one after another. The picture would be eminently quotable, if nearly every line didn't contain a four-letter word. The narration by Downey is one part straight out of a Raymond Chandler story and another part postmodern self-consciousness. The two combine to form a hilarious commentary on the action that keeps things moving along. And things do move along at a crazy rate, taking left turn after left turn to give one surprise after another. It's practically impossible to predict where the movie's going next, and even when it goes Hollywood the narration mocks the fact that it has done so. It's much more than a buddy film, and all to the better.
But even the best script doesn't work without a good cast, and the leads here make the most of it. Downey, the poster boy for inveterate screwups, is a natural to portray Harry. But he has a great attitude about it, and puts his all into the role and he's delightfully funny. Kilmer's Gay Perry is a subtle portrayal that never quite makes one sure until the very end whether he's actually gay or just putting on an act so people underestimate him. Monaghan is delightfully spunky and expressive, and you can't help but fall for her just as hard as does Harry. The three play off of each other, and the supporting cast, with letter-perfect timing and on-the-money reactions. One of the signature moments for the two men is an inept interrogation of witnesses that starts off in full Mickey Spillane mode, then veers into Quentin Tarantino territory before Downey accidentally kills the suspect thanks to poor math skills. The pair play it perfectly, mixing slapstick foolishness with grim seriousness in a perfect blend.
It's not clear why this film was such a box office disaster: it made back a grand $4 million in the U.S. on a $15 million production budget. Considering the star names involved and the fact this is one of the most entertaining modern films I've seen in years, that performance is utterly perplexing and only serves to condemn the tastes of today's audiences. But hopefully this picture will gain the reputation it deserves on DVD (or HD-DVD, as the case may be). How can one dislike a movie that brings back Saul Bass-style main titles that are worth watching all by themselves?
Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A
Image Transfer Review: Overall the HD image is splendid, with a few scenes where ringing is evident, but it's almost never distracting. Fine detail is excellent, with plenty of shadow detail to boot. The color scheme is quite idiosyncratic, with numerous scenes swathed in gold, and others quite desaturated, but it appears to reflect the director's intent well. The standard definition version, in anamorphic widescreen is excellent as well, though the fine detail and most of the shadow detail go missing. Either side should please.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital + tracks sound fine, with plenty of bass impact, especially when the car containing one of the victims flies into the water. Gunshots have plenty of oomph and there's lots of surround activity. Range is excellent and hiss and noise appropriately are nonexistent.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 29 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring V for Vendetta
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer and Shane Black
Extras Grade: B+
Final CommentsEndlessly funny and inventive, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang just careens from one hilarious moment to another. The transfers are excellent, and the commentary is plenty of fun too. My highest recommendation.
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