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Film Talk: Looking Back – Looking up 'idiot' with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Though what is now his most famous role was still a couple of years from hitting our screens and changing the comic-book flick forever, Robert “I am Iron Man” Downey Jr was an intoxicating talent, oozing intelligence with his every performance.

Val Kilmer and Robert Downey Jr in 2005's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Val Kilmer and Robert Downey Jr in 2005's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

In the year 2005, one of the Hollywood swashbuckler’s finest yet oft-forgotten works came to cinemas, doing so, indeed, with quite the ‘bang bang’.

A nugget of dark comedy gold, 2005’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was the directorial debut of Shane Black, and starred Downey Jr alongside Val Kilmer, Michelle Monaghan, and Corbin Bernsen.

The script was partially based on the Brett Halliday novel Bodies Are Where You Find Them, but also goes as far as to almost parody the ‘hardboiled’ literary genre, which typically featured grizzled and disillusioned prohibition-era detectives.

Being set in the 21st century however, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang cleverly employs many of the genre’s classic tropes against a modern day backdrop.

Produced by Joel Silver, with Susan Levin and Steve Richards as executive producers, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was filmed in Los Angeles between February and May 2004, making its debut at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival.

A stylish and hilarious homage to classic detective fiction, this modern masterpiece will take you on an entertaining ride...

While escaping from the New York police following a botched burglary, small time thief Harry Lockhart (Downey Jr) – also the film’s narrator – accidentally bursts in to an acting audition and inadvertently impresses its panel with a remorseful outburst mistaken for method acting.

Consequently, Harry finds himself flown out to LA to screen test for a movie role of a private investigator.

Attending a party on his arrival, Harry meets homosexual PI, Perry van Shrike (Kilmer), known throughout the Hollywood community as ‘Gay Perry’.

Hired to give Harry on-the-job experience for his role, Perry invites him to join him on a case, which upon the discovery of a body, proves to be far more intricate than either of them had foreseen.

Complicated even further by a chance encounter with his childhood crush Harmony (Monaghan), Harry is thrown full throttle into a world of investigation, murder and damsels in distress.

But will this unlikely hero be just who is needed to save the day?..

There are many movies that boast great chemistry between their leading stars, but few that possess the magic of Downey Jr and Kilmer in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

As a pairing, they are sublime, dancing with dialogue and creating some of the most hilarious deadpan dark comedy moments ever captured on camera.

Monaghan gives a great performance throughout, gelling exceptionally well with leading man Downey Jr as well as holding engaging chemistry with Kilmer.

A twisting, turning and deeply sarcastic thrill ride from start to finish, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is as cool as a cucumber, and as such is a film that encapsulates the personality of its narrating star to perfection.

Before he was Tony Stark, he was Harry Lockhart, who might – just might – have a bit more of a place in my heart.

Regardless of Downey Jr, with Val Kilmer giving the finest performance of his career, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a slice of cinematic excellence which, tragically, never made it on to the radar for many.

Give it a try, and you’ll be looking up the word ‘idiot’ in the dictionary in no time (you’ll see what I mean).

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