(US - 2016)
Directed by Shane Black. Written by Shane Black and Anthony Bagorazzi. Cast: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Kim Basinger, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Yaya DaCosta, Keith David, Beau Knapp, Lois Smith, Gil Gerard, Jack Kilmer, Ty Simpkins, Murielle Telio, Daisy Tahan, Lance Valentine Butler, Hannibal Buress. (R, 115 mins)
It's one of the most egregious crimes of recent movie distribution that Shane Black's 2005 meta noir/private eye black comedy KISS KISS BANG BANG didn't get the exposure it deserved. Perhaps the most quotable movie of the last couple of decades after THE BIG LEBOWSKI, KISS KISS BANG BANG was the directorial debut of Shane Black, the screenwriter behind such wiseass, mismatched, "...if they don't kill each other first!" action/buddy classics as LETHAL WEAPON, THE LAST BOY SCOUT, and THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT. KISS KISS BANG BANG was nothing if not a mission statement for Black, encompassing all of his ideas and influences in one smart, razor-sharp, brilliantly executed package that Warner Bros. had no idea how to market. Showcasing a mystery with the labyrinthine complexity of CHINATOWN fused with the big action set pieces of producer Joel Silver and one of the all-time classic bickering, forced-together partnerships with small-time criminal Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.), gay private eye Gay Perry (Val Kilmer), and still-aspiring starlet-in-her-mid-30s Harmony Faith Lane (Michelle Monaghan), KISS KISS BANG BANG got rave reviews across the board but the studio still only gave it a limited release, topping out at just 226 screens. It became a bigger hit in Europe and eventually found a cult following on DVD/Blu-ray and cable, and it led to Downey getting Black a major directing gig with IRON MAN 3.
ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN. A serious actor who's done some grim films in the past, Gosling is a revelation here, though it may not be a surprise if you saw his own SNL stint a few months ago, which was so infectiously fun that he couldn't stop completely breaking in nearly every sketch. While they're both funny as hell, there's a melancholy--and in March's case, tragic-- undercurrent to their characters and the ways they use their cynicism as a protective shield (if anything, the character development might be stronger here than it is in KISS KISS BANG BANG) as they make their living navigating the cesspool of Tinseltown depravity (one aspiring starlet to another as Healy walks by them at a party: "I told him if you want me to do that, fine...just don't eat asparagus first"). The leads are matched by a breakout performance from young Australian actress Rice, whose Holly is rebellious and fearless, getting herself into dangerous situations and using her wits to extricate herself. At the same time, she really grounds the mismatched detective team and keeps them on their toes. It's a huge accomplishment that she holds her own with guys like Crowe and Gosling and manages to steal scenes from dramatic actors of their caliber.