While I was watching this movie I recognised a scene and a still photo that I had actually found on the Internet months and months ago, in fact it’s so long I might even consider that it was close to a year. That’s a long time I’ve known about Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and a long time that I’ve been looking forward to both Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer being onscreen together.
Both are excellent actors, one has had many poorly chosen roles, and the other has had some poorly chosen habits. With this movie I was hoping to see both had dropped their poor choices of the past and moved on to something which promised much, much more.
The first thing you’re going to notice about this movie is confusion. The first half is fast paced with characters talking over each other and a style all of its own that just adds to the uncertainty of what the hell is going on, add these together and this confusion is one of the most attractive and fantastic qualities about the movie.
It adds something new, not only to separate it from all the other movies out there, but also to separate it from your previous viewing. I can actually imagine watching this movie again and enjoying it just as much, if not more, than I did the other night as I caught it in the superb location of Edinburgh’s threatened Cameo Cinema, Screen One.
Lockhart’s (Downey’s) voiceover is quite unusual, it’s not often you hear a narration of a movie nowadays, and it’s much less that you hear one like this. In fact if I’m not mistaken the only other place where I’ve heard a narration play with the audience is in some more slapstick and in your face comedies…I may be wrong, and someone can correct me, but I’ve never seen this anywhere else.
His voice over not only narrates the movie, but also pulls you around it. It’ll stop the movie, leap about in time, and treat you as though you’re sitting next to the narrator while you’re watching. This is absorbing. It’s not only funny at times, but it adds to that confusion of not knowing what’s going to happen next or where you’re going to be taken. You realise very soon that the movie doesn’t have to follow the standard format, and that whenever the narrator speaks you could be in for another whip cut to somewhere, or somewhen, else.
When you think about that idea of narration you might be forgiven for thinking that it could really turn you off the movie, and you’d be right. I really do hate being taken out of a movie, that is to say, when I’m watching it I am hopefully absorbed in the world presented to me. Having to query something I’m seeing on screen, for example, will quickly snap me out of a movie and it’ll have to work hard again to get me back in.
What’s interesting about this narration is that it’s effectively doing that all the time. You’ll be in the flow of the story and a scene, and you’re whipped out of it by the narrator and thrown back in somewhere else. However I found I didn’t get pulled right out of the movie, just out of the level of the story and back to the narrator. I realised afterwards I was absorbed by the narrators story, and it was like I was viewing a movie within a movie!
There’s some excellent casting in here. Downey is superb, there’s no question of that. Michelle Monaghan is lovely and is equally as good, and the casting of Corbin Bernsen is just inspired – I want a comeback from him right now! Yet there’s one actor that outshines them all, helped along by his character and the superb writing, but for me this vindicates everything I’ve said about Kilmer to date, he’s an amazing actor.
Kilmer not only gets some of the best lines in the movie, but he gets the best character and some of the best scenes. The torture scene is hilarious, and the scene interrogating the orderly is fantastically written and performed.
That’s a point I’ve touched on a few times now, but it really needs proper credit. The writing is fantastic. The dialogue is real, quick and often over other dialogue. That makes it hard to catch sometimes, but gives the whole movie a very believable quality, and that just helps to pull you straight in.
It also has a great way with moving from comedy to seriousness very easily, and you’re not left with a movie fixed firmly in one genre and visiting another for a light moment. This manages to mix the two perfectly. One minute we’re amazed at the feelings being portrayed (under the bed and being discovered) and the next we’re having a good old laugh at the screen (the hungry dog scene). They are blended together superbly well.
I found it very difficult to second guess the plot, and although some of the parts were quite obvious, others were totally out of the blue and surprised me. Something the movie does very well is let you discover things with the character (something I noticed of another movie I saw recently Where the Truth Lies.
Here too, the surprises were not the point of the movie, the characters interactions and the situations they were getting into where what mattered. This made the movie for me, it’s all about the characters. With excellent casting, especially with Kilmer, and a superbly written script, this movie is excellent and well worth going to see in the cinema. With a unique plot device of the “interactive” voice over and a written style we’ve just not seen in a long time, I can’t help but say this movie is superb and recommend it without question.