13 September 2005

EXCLUSIVE!!! Shane Black's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Leaves Me Staggering, Bloody, and Asking For More!

Hey guys, it's Donnie...Holy Crap.

I haven’t had this much fun at a movie since…Christ, I can’t even remember.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is the newest opus from writer and now director Shane Black. It marks his first work in over five years, and I now can’t help but wonder if there aren’t some other writers and directors out there who might benefit from a five year hiatus from filmmaking. Shane Black is clever, brilliant, slick, imaginative, and, most importantly, he keeps the audience on its toes throughout the film. But, first things first.

I saw Kiss Kiss Bang Bang screen as part of the Boston Film Festival this past weekend, and while some people got their tickets for free at a local music store, I actually paid admission. Don’t worry, I got every penny’s worth. You see, not only was the movie showing, but Shane Black was scheduled to appear and do a Q&A afterwards. That in and of itself was worth the price of admission, although I wish it had gone on a bit longer. But fear not, I went up to him after the official Q&A was over to ask my own question and you won’t BELIEVE what the answer was.

I’m getting ahead of myself again. You see, I can’t help it. This movie is just infused with so much sheer joy, whenever I try to talk about it, I start going in a million directions at once. Let’s just lay it on the line, so to speak.

This film serves two purposes simultaneously, and just like a Johnny Gossamer case, while they might seem totally unrelated, they are actually one and the same. The film is both Shane Black’s love letter to the detective genre, and Shane Black’s total “Fuck You!” to Hollywood. And after listening to Shane speak in person, it was clear that both his infatuation with the genre and his total frustration with the Hollywood machine had become totally palpable influences on his work. But, back to the flick.

Harry Lockhart is a small time thief in New York. While evading the cops after trying to rip off a toy store to get an action figure for his nephew, Harry stumbles into a Hollywood audition, where the producers mistake him for an actor and instantly have him read for a role in the movie. Harry sort of breaks down while reading the side, and the producers love him so much they fly him out to Hollywood for a screen test, invite him to parties, and have him take “detective lessons” from “Gay Perry”, a gay private investigator played by Val Kilmer. While there he also falls for a girl, Michelle Monaghan, who believes him to be an actual detective and convinces him to investigate the death of her sister.

I can’t really say too much more than that. I mean, I could tell you all about the plot of this movie without giving away the ending because the thing is so damn complex, but half the fun is in the journey. We, the audience, have absolutely no idea what to expect around the next corner, mostly because neither does Harry. However, his narration serves as an excellent compass throughout the film, despite his own tendency to wander off the path and tell parts of the story somewhat out of order. Kilmer is the perfect foil to Downey Jr. While Downey is playful, emotional and bordering on ADHD, Kilmer is all business, the voice of reason in a world that spiraling out of control. Michelle Monaghan is not only oh-so-tasty, but she gives a total breakout performance in a role that could easily be overshadowed by two larger than life personalities like Kilmer and Downey Jr. She not only holds her own, but challenges Downey Jr. throughout the film.

Shane Black’s directing is pretty damn impressive for a first timer. The cinematography is an exercise in simplicity. Every shot is exactly what it needs to be, no more, no less. One particular scene in which Downey Jr. is trapped under a bed and the actions that ensue…one person in the theater called it exquisite and that is exactly the word for it. The film cost a mere $15 million, but it never shows. John Ottman’s score keeps the film moving at a quick pace that helps drive the urgency of the situation, particularly since the film is more talking than action. The time away from Hollywood certainly hasn’t dulled Black’s razor sharp wit or inimitable sense of style. His writing is like the mutant lovechild of Joss Whedon and Aaron Sorkin, chock full of pathos and hopped up on ultra clever pills. I’m certain we can look forward to more greatness from him in the near future.

Speaking of the near future…The Q&A after the film gave a great insight into the mind of Shane Black, and oh what a mind it is. They told us before the movie that Val Kilmer was going to be there, but at the last minute his transportation fell through and he was unable to make it, which obviously disappointed more than a few people, but it also cleared out some of the suckers from the Q&A. Black spoke of his early attempts to start writing again, and how his friend James L. Brooks gave him some crucial guidance. “I would hand [Brooks] a draft and he’d read it and say, ‘This reads like one of my movies. I never saw you doing this type of stuff. You should try more of a genre thing, like a murder mystery,’ which then led me back to my love of pulp detective novels.” He also said that nobody wanted the movie to get made, partially because he had Kilmer and Downey Jr. onboard to star and no studio wanted to spend the money to insure them; that is until Joel Silver came to the rescue. Since the Boston Film Fest is a public festival, the audience was a surreal mix of socialites, film buffs and more than a few college kids, so a few of the questions were a little asinine, including one kid who asked Black to read his script, for which he was all but booed by the rest of the audience.

Now, for the icing on the cake: Over the course of the Q&A, Shane made numerous comments like “My next one will probably suck,” and “I’ll probably do three more movies and then die.” So as the crowd began to disperse, I went up to Shane and asked him what he’s got going on in the future, to which he replied, “Well there’s this attractive young Asian girl…” After we all finished chuckling he let slip the good stuff. His next project is going to be a horror film, not a slasher flick, but more about atmosphere, like “an old English ghost story, or The Exorcist. I’m writing it now and I’m gonna direct it.” Holy crap I want to see a Shane Black horror movie so bad it hurts.

Well, that’s all from Beantown. If any more screenings of note blow through Boston, you can expect to hear from me. I’ve been raving about this movie to anyone and everyone for the past two days now, and it’s already leaped into my top five movies for the year. I urge you to check this puppy out when it hits theaters in October and November. And bring a friend. Or bring 12.


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