Hotshot screenwriter Shane Black is back with, his directorial debut, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. The good news is Kiss Kiss is more bang than whimper; the bad news is this post-modern meta-noir is so smugly self-congratulatory it almost alienates it's audience. But Black's audacity invigorates, and if his wit isn't quite as coruscating as he thinks it is, it's certainly hot enough to make the majority of Hollwood's output seem like winter in Tunguska.
Talking of hot, Michelle Monaghan in a sawn-off Santa suit is hotter then lobster-red Rio sunburn and cooler than an Ipanema breeze: smart, sexy and switched on to pulp fiction, her character, Harmony Faith Lane, is amorous americano, frisky frappuccino, confident cafè latte & irresistable espresso ristretto: a hip chick with a kick like a machiato.
Pauline Kael, Raymond Chandler, Tex Avery, Jean Baudrillard & Jacques Derrida are all pulp to Black's postmodernist mill as he satirises the banality of mainstream movies, the shallowness of the Hollywood hipster scene and the absurdity and self-referentiality of formulaic pulp fiction. If KKBB rarely aspires to true wit, the smart-assed verbal calisthenics come so thick and fast its like being trapped in a lift with Chris Rock on crystal meth: disorientating, claustrophobic, frequently hysterical, but after 15 minutes you feel like the straight man at a wisecracking convention. You're not quite sure if you should be laughing along, taking notes or praying for the intervention of the emergency services. If few of the one-liners would have illuminated the Algonquin Round Table, they're certainly a block or two closer to the Mensa neighborhood than traditional Hollywood Square fare.
Here are a few lines I transcribed to my mental notebook before the paranoid delusion that I was being pursued by a benzedrine-buzzing Robin Williams forced me to flee to the rest room:
"What do you do?" -- "I'm retired. I invented dice when I was a kid."
"I was wetter than Drew Barrymore at a grunge club."
"This isn’t good cop and bad cop,” says Harry. “This is fag and New Yorker."
"Any questions, hesitate to call."
On the downside, Black seems to think writing the homo-erotic subtext of buddy movies (his own Lethal Weapon script is, ironically, one of the most egregious examples of the formula he seeks to lampoon) larger than the Hollywood sign is tantamount to satire: our postmodern protagonist/knight in tarnished armour's ("My name is Harry Lockhart, I'll be your narrator") buddy (Val Kilmer) is Gay not only by name, but has an "I Will Survive" ringtone, just for the avoidance of the last scintilla of doubt.
KKBB is clever and crass in approximately equal measure: a clumsy subplot, disingenuously displaces the froth on our collective cafè latte with a heavy-handed sprinkling of child abuse: a bracing shot of motivational machiato (masquerading as authentic emotional resonance) ensures this cool concoction of a movie's finale is more flat than frothy.