Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (R)
A.V. Club; IMDb; Rotten Tomatoes; Thrilling Detective; TV Tropes; Warner Bros.; Wikipedia
First, let me just say I wasn't sure in what category to include this review. Years ago I was planning on having a category called "ultraviolence," but eventually I decided against that. This would've fit there, though. "Noir" might also be a fair fit, or at least "neo-noir." Or "action." Or "dramedy." Or "quirky." But I think "weird" is probably the best fit. I'm still not entirely comfortable with that, but whatever. (Edit: I later moved it to "badass," but I still think it's pretty weird.) Anyway, you should know that there's a great deal of violence, a fair amount of swearing, some nudity, and um... well, it's just... viewer discretion advised, okay? But there's also a lot of stuff about the movie that's really funny, and clever, and cool, and intriguing, and... stuff. There's a great deal, in fact, that I loved about the movie. I loved how Robert Downey Jr.'s character, Harry Lockhart, narrates the movie in a total "breaking the fourth wall" kinda way, with plenty of references to movie tropes and cliches, and even references to specific other movies. This movie may use some cliches itself, but generally in a self-aware, almost apologetic way. So that was really neat. And I dug all kinds of little things like two separate grammar lessons concerning "bad" vs. "badly." (I find it very true and very amusing how a person can learn a rule in one case for how to use a word correctly, and then later use the same rule incorrectly in a different case.) But to even remember all the things I loved about this movie, I'd have to watch it again and take notes, which I don't wanna do. Besides, it'd get too spoilery and make for tedious reading, as well as taking away the fun of actually watching the movie, yourself. But I just have to say, if my rating is "rather liked" and not actually "loved," that's largely because the movie also has a great many moments that just made me go "Oh my God!" Some of that was darkly humorous, but even then, it was mostly just disturbing. Like, really hard to watch.
So anyway, what's it about? The opening scene is of a church fair or whatever, with all kinds of activities going on, including a young boy playing magician. He has a young girl in a box, and another boy has a chainsaw to supposedly cut her in half. The end of that scene is actually really funny, and I thought the young actress was good, though sadly that's the only scene in the movie with any of those kids (though the scene will later be tied into the main story, sort of). It wasn't until after the movie, when I started writing my review and looking stuff up online, that I discovered the actress was Ariel Winter, who later played Alex in Modern Family. So I already knew and liked her work, I just didn't know it. But I digress. After that scene we have opening credits, which are stylishly done. Then we have Harry at a party. Some things he said in narration... never came to make sense to me. It sounded to me like the movie was going to mostly be a flashback to a year before the party, but that doesn't seem to be the case. It also sounded to me like something of much more profound impact was going to happen, than what actually did. I mean, I believe he said he and Harmony had changed the world a year earlier. But the world did not change. Maybe I misheard or misunderstood. Still, at the end of the movie we do actually see Harry concluding his narration, so maybe that explains things. I don't really think so, but what do I know? It's not like I'm just some bear biting the heads off fish, or anything, but still... what do I know?
Anyway, Harry does occasionally interrupt his telling of the story, to flash back to something he may have forgotten to say earlier. And he derides himself for being a bad narrator, which is cool. One flashback is to sometime before the party... which btw is in Los Angeles. In the flashback, he was in New York, where he was a petty thief. He and a partner had broken into a toy store, I guess, to steal a Christmas present for a young relative, who we only ever hear on the phone. (I think the kid called him "Uncle Harry".) But the robbery gets botched, and leads, in an unlikely but amusing way, to Harry being discovered by a movie producer, and flown to Los Angeles for a screen test, playing a private eye. However, he never actually gets to take the test, because other things happen that... basically make his life ridiculously chaotic and scary. It all starts, however, with him meeting a real private investigator, Perry van Shrike (aka "Gay Perry"), who's supposed to teach Harry about being a P.I. So he takes him along on his latest case, where he's supposed to be filming someone doing something bad, though it's not clear what that's all about. They end up tailing the guy as he drives off, and then a car ends up in a lake, with a dead woman in the trunk.
Meanwhile, I should also say that at the party, earlier, Harry had seen a woman (who we like), who reminded him of his childhood friend (and high school crush), Harmony Lane. Later, he meets her at a bar, and starts talking with her, and after awhile finds out that she actually is Harmony. They had both grown up together in Indiana, but eventually went their separate ways. So now they reconnect, though throughout the film their relationship has some rocky patches. I don't want to spoil anything about that. But Harmony's sister shows up in town, and promptly gets killed, after stealing some money and a credit card from Harmony. The police rule it a suicide, but Harmony, thinking Harry is now a real P.I., wants his help to prove it was murder and solve the case. I should mention that Harmony was always a fan of a series of pulp detective novels, when she was a kid, and I guess Harry was too. And once when they were kids, a movie based on one of the books was made, and some filming was done in their hometown. And there's this literary cliche the books always used, in which the detective, Johnny Gossamer, would take on two cases at once, and those cases would turn out, in what was supposed to be a twist, to be related. All part of a single case. So, naturally, in a case of life imitating art, it turns out that the case Perry and Harry had been investigating was related to the case of Harmony's sister. (But there's another twist about that, which I won't spoil.)
So anyway, Perry reluctantly helps Harry help Harmony. Though most of the time Perry doesn't seem to like Harry at all, and thinks he's stupid. And it's not long before he tells Harmony that Harry isn't really a detective. In the end, though, in spite of frequent squabbling, the three of them eventually get along. But there's really nothing else I can think to say about the plot itself. I did like the three main characters, though. And some of the other characters (like, bad guys) were amusing. Oh, I should say the night before... no, two nights before I watched this DVD, I watched a DVD of A Knight's Tale. I think maybe a reason, possibly subconsciously, that I chose to watch this DVD was because Shannyn Sossamon was in that movie, and I probably saw this movie in her IMDb credits when I was writing that review. Though here she plays a very minor character, just called "pink haired girl," who has hardly any lines. But I thought she was a lot cuter here than in the other movie, where her role was much bigger. Maybe it was the pink hair, I dunno. But I digress. I suppose I should just say, again, that it's a really funny movie, with interesting characters and relationships, awesome narration, some believable stuff, some nice, simple touches of storytelling that may not always advance the plot, but which nevertheless help us get to know and like the characters; and then there are lots of things that are over the top, ridiculous, terribly unlikely, but which precisely because of that make the movie better, largely because those things afford Harry the opportunity of commenting on them, in a drily hilarious way, in his narration. So really, as brilliant as the movie is, in so many ways, I should love it, but I just can't, quite. Because of one simple fact, which I may have mentioned already:
...This movie fucked my brain.