Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a 2005 American black comedy crime film written and directed by Shane Black (in his directorial debut), and starring Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer, Michelle Monaghan, and Corbin Bernsen. The script is partially based on the Brett Halliday novel Bodies Are Where You Find Them (1941), and interprets the classic hardboiled literary genre in a tongue-in-cheek fashion. The film was produced by Joel Silver, with Susan Levin and Steve Richards as executive producers.
Shot in Los Angeles between February 24 and May 3, 2004, the film debuted at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival on May 14, 2005, and was released in the United States on October 21, 2005. It received positive reviews from critics, and grossed $15 million worldwide.
Harry Lockhart unintentionally wins a screen test in Los Angeles by showing remorse in an audition for a botched burglary he committed in New York City, which casting director Dabney Shaw mistakes for method acting. At a party, Harry meets his childhood crush Harmony Lane and "Gay" Perry van Shrike, a private investigator hired to give Harry on-the-job tutelage for his screen test. Party host Harlan Dexter, a retired actor, has recently resolved a feud over his wife's inheritance with his estranged daughter, Veronica.
During a stakeout at a Big Bear Lake cabin, Perry and Harry see a car being dumped in a lake. Perry notices a female corpse in the trunk, and shoots the lock in a rescue attempt, but accidentally hits the corpse. They decide against reporting it as it will appear Perry killed her. Thinking Harry is a private investigator, Harmony informs Harry of her sister, Jenna, who supposedly killed herself; Harry finds the lake corpse, identified as Veronica, in his bathroom and dumps it with Perry, but soon discovers Harmony's credit card was used by Jenna to hire Perry. Harry goes to see Harmony, who accidentally slams the door on his finger, cutting it off, after finding out he lied about being a private investigator.
At a party where Harmony is working, Mr. Frying Pan and Mr. Fire, two men seen at the lake, beat Harry to cease his investigation. Harmony and Harry follow them to Perry's latest stakeout and Harmony leaves Harry in the car to warn Perry, ending in Mr. Frying Pan being killed by an armed food-cart operator. A pink-haired girl, affiliated with Mr. Frying Pan and Mr. Fire, steals Harmony's car and unwittingly drives an unconscious Harry to her house. Mr. Fire arrives and kills her, and Harry kills Mr. Fire.
Harry meets Harmony at his hotel where she reveals she told Jenna that Harlan was her real father, doing so to diminish the pain of their sexually abusive father. She also reveals she once slept with Harry's best friend, and he throws her out. Hearing of her supposed disappearance, Harry and Perry investigate a mental hospital owned by Harlan, learning Veronica was incarcerated there by him, and to be replaced by Pink Hair Girl, to end the inheritance feud. Harry unintentionally kills a murderous orderly, and they are captured by Harlan. Harry informs Harmony, who steals a van with Veronica's corpse. The men escape, and are shot by the same bullet; Harry then manages to kill Harlan.
In hospital, the trio learn Jenna committed suicide after witnessing Harlan have sex with Veronica's replacement, believing her "new father" was also incestuous. Perry slaps Jenna's father, who is bed-ridden, as Harry secures a job working for Perry.
Following the bad critical reception of The Long Kiss Goodnight and a rejection letter from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Shane Black decided he would attempt something out of the action genre. Following the example of James L. Brooks, Black attempted to make a romantic comedy, "a quirky story of two kids in L.A." Brooks liked Black's first draft, but felt his later attempts were losing focus. Trying to salvage what he had liked, Brooks suggested Black imagine Jack Nicholson from As Good as It Gets playing Nicholson's role from Chinatown. This led Black to add action elements - "I said, you know, 'Fuck it. I have to put a murder in it.'" - and re-work the screenplay, adding the character of detective "Gay" Perry, who Black said was an attempt to break stereotypes, as he had never seen "the gay guy who kicks down the door, shoots everyone, and bails your ass out before". Old detective novels were a major influence, with Black saying he tried to re-invent the genre "using realistic characters, in a modern setting, but with the spirit of the 1950s and 1960s". The crime plot drew from Brett Halliday's Bodies Are Where You Find Them, and Black homaged Raymond Chandler by splitting the film into chapters named after Chandler's books.
The script, then titled You'll Never Die in This Town Again, was rejected by various studios before Joel Silver, who gave Black his first break producing Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout, decided to help him. The leading role of the now retitled L.A.P.I. had been considered for Benicio del Toro, Hugh Grant and Johnny Knoxville. Robert Downey, Jr. learned about the film from his then-girlfriend Susan Levin, who worked as Silver's assistant, and as he finished working with Silver in Gothika, the producer and Black brought him in to audition. Downey was eventually cast as they liked his readings and knew he could fit into the small $15 million budget, as his career had been in a downfall following his time in prison. Levin also suggested bringing in Val Kilmer, who coincidentally had been long interested in making a comedy.
Before principal photography began, the title became Kiss Kiss Bang Bang because Black felt it was a "blunt and austere title" that described how the plot was "half romantic comedy and half murder mystery". To achieve a neo-noir look, Black screened 1960s films of the genre, such as Harper and Point Blank, to cinematographer Michael Barrett and production designer Aaron Osborne. Osborne in particular drew inspiration from the detective book covers by illustrator Robert McGuinness, who was also brought in to draw the covers for the fictional Johnny Gossamer novels that appear in the film. The Hollywood party that opens the film was filmed in Black's own Los Angeles mansion.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was screened out of competition at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival. The film's premiere happened at the Chinese Theatre on October 17, as the opener of the Hollywood Film Festival. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was released on DVD June 13, 2006.
The film opened on October 21 in the United States, with a limited release. From its release until mid-November, the film's distribution increased every weekend due to its favorable critical reviews. It stayed in release in the United States until early January. The film earned a total of $4,243,756 in the United States. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang grossed far more outside the United States, accounting for just over 70% of the film's worldwide gross, accumulating $11,541,392. The film ended up earning $15,785,148 worldwide, earning back its budget. Downey was disappointed at the low box office intake, but said Kiss Kiss Bang Bang "ended up being my calling card to Iron Man", as his performance attracted director Jon Favreau. That film marked Downey's career resurrection, and Black would even be brought in to co-write and direct the sequel Iron Man 3.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 86%, based on 180 reviews, and an average rating of 7.46/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "Tongue-in-cheek satire blends well with entertaining action and spot-on performances in this dark, eclectic neo-noir homage." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score 72 out of 100, based on 37 critic reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Mike Russell of The Oregonian observed that "This is one of Downey's most enjoyable performances, and one of Kilmer's funniest. It's a relationship comedy wrapped in sharp talk and gunplay, a triumphant comeback for Black, and one of the year's best movies". Jeff Otto, an IGN critic, wrote that, "It takes a bunch of genres and twists them into a blender, a pop relic that still feels current ... one of the best times I've had at the movies this year." Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter praised the lead performances "Downey and Monaghan are wonderful at playing characters that compensate for the harshness of their past with flippant swaggers." Todd McCarthy of Variety magazine wrote: "Once again making a diverting but insubstantial movie look better than it is, Downey, with haggard charm to burn, is winning all the way. Kilmer is riotous at times as an impeccably groomed, businesslike guy keen to assert his orientation at every opportunity." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3 out of 4 stars. Ebert wrote that the film "contains a lot of comedy and invention, but doesn't much benefit from its clever style. The characters and plot are so promising that maybe Black should have backed off and told the story deadpan, instead of mugging so shamelessly for laughs."
Robert Downey Jr. said "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which is, I think, in some ways the best film I've ever done." It was named "Overlooked Film of the Year" by the 2005 Phoenix Film Critics Society. Empire magazine named it "Best Thriller".
The soundtrack to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang with music by John Ottman was released on October 18, 2005.