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Shane Black delivers an insane self-aware comedy thriller in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. One part Chinatown, one part Get Shorty, one part Pulp Fiction, the influences are all out in the open, and the philosophy is to push the envelope of every hipster quality – edginess, wit, in-jokes, and so on. The action is unbelievable and the plot nearly incomprehensible (things are tied up neatly at the end… sort of).

It’s Robert Downey Jr as a criminal turned actor turned detective turned who knows what by the end. Val Kilmer is Gay Paree… well, you can tell where that is going, but he’s also a detective, oozing well-deserved confidence, and a bit of moral ambiguity as well. Heck, when it comes to a moral center to the film, I’m not sure there is one. Michelle Monaghan is the love interest for Downey, but not an easy one in any sense of the word. More than just coincidence, they are thrown together by violent and harrowing events, only to have that energy deflected into insane comedic tangents.

Really, I think of all the action and extreme cleverness of the film as a cover behind the love story. I imagine a lot of people won’t believe me. It’s a relationship with some weight to it. The script also seems to care about these two being together. Not that it will really admit it, but I feel more resonance from the forces pushing them together and pulling them apart than I get from the show-off stylings of the overt plot.

As a formula it actually works. The intent is purely for entertainment, and inevitably that sort of movie has to “cheat� so to speak. Rather than using the usual tactic of misdirection, Black just calls out what sort of filmic device he is using… or could be using if he weren’t being so self-aware.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is very close to the film that it’s meant to be. The skill and craftsmanship at play are quite remarkable. I feel it straining though, to have a bit more meaning. Maybe it’s there, maybe I’ll see it a second time around, but for now I have to conclude there’s a little more we need

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