‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ Review: Dir. Shane Black [Alternative Christmas]

Nowadays, Christmas is everywhere from mid to late October. We barely have chance to see Halloween before the season is rammed down our throats. Many Christmas movies are far too sickly sweet, overly brimming with sugary sentiments and festive cheer. Now if like me, you can only stomach a couple of these movies each year, but still would like to stick with a film that has a festive flavour, then I suggest Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

Like precious few films before it, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a film set during the Christmas period that doesn’t overdo the season. In fact Christmas is just a backdrop setting for the film which saw late eighties/ early nineties stars Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer make a triumphant return to the cinema screen.

Directing his feature debut, Shane Black, the writer behind films such as Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, and Last Action Hero, created a tongue-in-cheek murder mystery masterpiece. Narrated by Downey Jr.’s Harold ‘Harry’ Temple, the film recounts events from the previous Christmas. Through a comedic chain of events, Harry finds himself whisked from his life as a petty thief in New York, to Los Angeles, to audition for a Hollywood detective film. In preparation for his screen test, Harry finds himself paired up with private detective Gay Perry and whilst on a stakeout the pair witness the dumping of a body that may or may not be related to Harry’s old high school crush Harmony Faith Lane (Michelle Monaghan), with whom he has recently reconnected with.

As mentioned before, the film is set ‘last Christmas’, though the only details that give it’s time of year away are the decorations to the lavish parties that the group attend. Let’s face it, as we get older, other than a few decorations put up around the homestead, the only real opportunity we get to embrace the holiday is during the inevitable Christmas parties, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang highlights this perfectly. The other big indicator of the holiday comes in the form of Monaghan’s super-sexy Mrs. Santa dress, an outfit that is worn for a substantial chunk of the movie. It was with this film (and that outfit!) that Monaghan launched her career.

The film also managed to re-introduce Downey Jr. back to world. After shooting to stardom with roles in Weird Science and Chaplin the actor battled multiple drug addictions for most of the late nineties and his tabloid headlines overshadowed his career. Eventually his issues culminated in a prison spell. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was one of his first projects upon release and were it not for his charismatic turn as Harry, I highly doubt that he would have ended up being cast as Iron Man. As amazing as Downy Jr is, it’s his co-star Val Kilmer who steals all the scenes. For those that are familiar with the film if I were to mention the ‘balls gun’, you’ll understand what I mean. It’s a shame that he didn’t manage to retain his big screen revival, however, Gay Perry is definitely near the top of his career highlights.

The thing that makes Kiss Kiss Bang Bang so much fun to watch this time of year is that the film itself is so fun. Full of self-referential quips ‘Don’t worry, I saw Lord of the Rings. I’m not going to end this 17 times’, and a well balanced mixture of zingy one-liners and slapstick comedy. The torture scene is a perfect example of these two elements working together.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is the perfect Christmas film to watch when you find that you’ve overdosed on the festive delights of it’s family-oriented counterparts.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is out to own now.

This review first appeared on THN.