Monday, June 21, 2010

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Day One: The Gush

| by Justin Thomas |

The best way I can describe Quentin Tarantino the filmmaker is Quentin Tarantino doesn’t make movies so much as he has cinematic orgasms. Regardless of whether they work for you, what winds up in his movies comes from a lifetime of watching movies, thinking and thinking and thinking about what he wants to do and then doing it where the finished result clearly tripped that little endorphin-releasing mechanism in his mind. If his movies work for you then the tripping of his little mechanism trips your little mechanism and you get those wonderful endorphins, too. The scene between Landa and the farmer to open Inglourious Basterds? Oh, yeah. And how.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang trips the mechanism for me and it would appear director Shane Black went somewhere very specific for him to bring it to life. It’s the only film he’s directed and I was surprised to see it is only the sixth screenplay to which he’s credited as writing, but any doubt as to whether he knows what he’s doing should be cast aside after Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

What does Kiss Kiss Bang Bang tell me about Shane Black? He knows his stuff. He understands precisely how to tell a joke through the language of cinema. He can give character details in a manner so subtle only multiple viewings reveal them, but the viewer is left with an “oh, I knew that” once it’s actually discovered. He’s spent time in the film noir era, a lot of time, and knows noir is more about a mindset than it is a checklist of things to include. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang also shows me what happens when a writer gets free rein to do whatever he wants with something and, while it might not be perfect and it might not find an audience, there’s less doubt as to whether it’s the writer’s vision.

If you want someone to explain good acting versus bad acting or add some sort of tool through which you can evaluate acting ability you’ve got the wrong person because I can’t do it. Does Kiss Kiss Bang Bang help me? Nope. Were Robert Downey, Jr., Val Kilmer and Michelle Monaghan acting? Beats me. It might appear the characters they inhabited were loved well enough to really throw their backs into it, but again, I know diddly squat about acting. I do know their performances and their chemistry were a blast to watch, and I could watch the three of them in future The Dead People in L.A. movies if we wind up lucky enough to get them. Which we won’t because...

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang failed in the States and I’m not surprised. I can’t imagine the studio knew what to do with it; the confusion would have left them with no reason to support it with a marketing campaign and a wide release and without that few movies have a chance to succeed. Please see The Shawshank Redemption as a previous example of this. It did well worldwide and I’m not surprised. Who first went gaga over the film noir period, the films made here but studied elsewhere? The French. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is enough of a thread back to that period that people who want more than a cinematic Royale with Cheese will get it and support it. Future film geeks, boys born in 2005 who decide to learn just a little bit more about movies, will find this and have the gosh-wow endorphin moment. Of this I am positively convinced because, well, it happened to me. I just happened to have been born in 1975.

There you go. Above are 603 words of gushing without much substance. Fanboy-type crap. Worry not, Dear Reader, as there is more to come about Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. I’ll be spending the week on it because pseudo-analytical nonsense is what I do and while Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is worthy of gushing there are also things within it worthy of note beyond fanboy-type crap.

I’ll finish Day One with this: buy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Don’t rent it. Don’t watch it on HBO and don’t you dare watch it on TBS. Buy it. Immediately. If you have any interest in seeing whether movies have more to offer than those you can see by buying a ticket on Fandango this very afternoon, buy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. I make the recommendation without reservation, well, unless you’re among the nice people in the Midwest, then I make the recommendation with the warning they drop “the bomb.” A lot.

Buy it and then watch it, of course. Don’t just buy it and let it collect dust. If you do that then how will you understand the “brilliance” of me pointing out the obscure little references in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Day Two and beyond?



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