Film: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
is a World of Snark Black Comedy
, acting as a self-aware parody of pulp detective novels and Film Noir
. Narrated by the deadpan
Harry Lockhart, the film opens as Harry flees a crime scene into a movie audition. Having just witnessed his buddy being shot and killed, Harry suffers an emotional breakdown in front of the producer, who mistakes him for a professional method actor
and casts him in a Detective Drama
Sent to Hollywood for a screen test, Harry is partnered with a sassy, gay Private Detective
called Gay Perry
to get a feel for his acting role. After stumbling upon childhood crush Harmony Lane, Harry heads on a routine stakeout with Perry; when the duo then inadvertently witnesses a body being dumped, they find themselves tangling with a surprisingly deep-rooted murder plot... just like the pulp novels Harmony used to read as a kid.
Starring Robert Downey, Jr.
and Val Kilmer
, the movie was directed and written by Shane Black
. Despite being a box-office bomb (thanks to Executive Meddling
), the movie was a critical success
and went on to become somewhat of a Cult Classic
This film provides examples of:
- Abusive Parents: Ubiquitous.
Perry: Did your dad love you?
Harry: Only when I dressed up like a beer bottle, how about you?
Perry: Well, he used to beat me in Morse code, so it's possible, but he never said the words.
- Another example involve both dead girls' fathersnote .
- Accidental Innuendo: Invoked by Harry after accidentally grabbing Harmony's boob trying to get a spider, only for Harmony to shrug it off to Harry's distaste:
Harry: Listen to me. I grab your tit, it's a fucking biggie! That came out wrong.
- Adaptation Displacement: Loosely based on Bodies Are Where You Find Them by Brett Halliday; while the movie is somewhat obscure, the book is incredibly moreso.
- Ask a Stupid Question...: A frequent occurence, usually from Perry
Perry: Look up "idiot" in the dictionary. You know what you'll find?
Harry: A picture of me?
Perry: No! The definition of the word idiot, which you fucking are!
- And the Adventure Continues: Harry retroactively reveals he's working for Perry in the present day.
- An Ass-Kicking Christmas: Lampshaded at Harmony's party, which is filled from wall-to-wall in semi-nude, writhing models in Christmas-themed costumes (including a reindeer).
- Animated Credits Opening
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking
Harry: Fuck this. Corpses, guys in masks, people kissing — people. This is wrong.
- Ate His Gun: Harmony's sister, who uses a shotgun for suicide.
- Badass Bystander: When Perry is attacked by a Mook in a park, he is saved the trouble of a gunfight when a hot dog vendor pulls out a handgun and blows the Mook away. Apparently the vendor didn't appreciate it when the Mook drove his car into the hot dog stand.
- Badass Gay: Perry.
- Bad Bad Acting: The way Harry stumbles through his lines during the audition. It takes a dramatic turn when the similarity to his current situation gets to be too much and he loses it.
- Bedmate Reveal: Harry and Harmony's friend.
- Better Than a Bare Bulb: The Disney Death scene is a perfect example.
Harry: Yeah, it's a dumb movie thing, but what do you want me to do, lie about it?
- Bittersweet Ending: The case gets solved and the protagonists survive, but it doesn't change that Harmony's sister did kill herself, and both Dexter and Harmony's rapist father pay little retribution considering their crimes. One of the characters even notes that things turn bitter somewhat suddenly:
Harry: So much for un-reality. I said goodbye, watched Jonny's world go back on the fiction shelf. But while it lasted, brother, it was one for the books.
- Black Comedy
- Bleed 'em and Weep: Harry breaks down after shooting a goon for the first time.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Harry's narration is conscious of the fact that he's narrating a film. In the end, Harry and Perry suddenly address the audience.
- Brick Joke:
- The 35 year old actress Harmony makes fun of at the bar reappears at the very end of the film starring in the same Generos beer commercial Harmony was in.
- After Harry rips on the use of the Coincidental Broadcast trope, a few scenes later he watches a news broadcast in which, for no good reason, the location of the climax is mentioned, exactly as Harry complained about earlier.
- Buffy Speak:
- Almost every time Harry has to explain something.
- Also, people generally have a habit of speaking in tangent or mishearing:
: Maybe you should get in touch, I got five bucks says you can still get him. Perry
: Really? That's funny, I got a 10 says "Pass the pepper". I got two quarters singing harmony on "Moonlight in Vermont". Harry
: What? Perry
: Talking money. Harry
: (confused) A talking monkey? Perry
Talking monkey, yeah. Came here from the future. Ugly sucker. Only says "Ficus".
- Bury Your Gays: Subverted Trope.
- Butt Monkey: If someone is going to get smacked, tortured, beaten up or otherwise mangled, it's going to be Harry. No one else is even allowed to get shot near him without the bullet hitting him, too. Every single time. Slightly lampshaded.
Mook: You look chilly. Come back inside.
Perry: Actually, I'm from back East. I'm kinda diggin' the cold. (Mook pistol whips Harry)
Harry: Ow! Fuck! He's the one who said it!
- Calling the Old Man Out: Perry does it for Harmony.
- Captain Ersatz: Joe Chester's Jonny Gossamer books.
- Cerebus Rollercoaster: The movie frequently jumps between serious and funny. One notable scene has drugged Harry waking in a car, witnessing a murder, killing the mook in a cold, blind rage, having a dog steal and eat his finger, to breaking down on the phone to Perry.
- Chekhov's Gag: Harry and Harmony's game of spot-the-celebrity-doppelganger ("Native American Joe Pesci", etc); a plot point later on is that Harlan Dexter hired a similar-looking actress to impersonate his daughter.
- Chekhov's Gun: Perry's "faggot gun", a miniature derringer Harry finds in Perry's glove box. As Perry says, homophobes avoid patting down his groin when checking for guns, which he later uses to his advantage.
- Also, the revolver planted in Harry's room: Harmony, unable to get a distant Perry's attention, accidentally drops and misfires it, warning and saving Perry; and Harry inadvertently fires it playing Russian Roulette with a mook, leading to Dexter capturing them.
- Chekhov's Gunman:
- Harlan Dexter and his daughter, Lampshaded viciously by Harry during his narration.
- Harmony's three friends apply to this: Flicka tells Harmony that Harry is a detective (causing Harmony to push him into taking her case), and later sees Harry at the airport where she inadvertently gives him a clue (by revealing Harmony is "Allison Ames"); and the "Homely Friend" and the waitress friend promptly return to cause more conflict between Harry and Harmony.
- Chekhov's Skill: Harry used to be a magician, which helps him catch Perry's thrown mobile and catch the gun at the overpass.
- Chivalrous Pervert: Harry has a serious case of this - no problem hitting on, looking at, or sleeping with women, but he has deep issues with any unsolicited contact and is uncomfortable with "easy" Hollywood girls. Early on in the movie he gets beat up preventing a guy from groping a sleeping Harmony at a party, only to hit on her hours after, and then sleep with her friend. Later, he touches her breast to get a spider, and when says she didn't mind if he had copped a feel, he freaks out and says there's something wrong with her and the guys she hangs out with if she's become that blasé about being groped. He adamantly refuses "pity sex".
- Contemplate Our Navels: A nice pause in the action where Harry looks back at his unrequited love's apartment and sighs.
- Country Matters
- CPR (Clean, Pretty, Reliable): Averted. After he and Perry are shot, Harry briefly attempts to give him CPR; cue blood spilling from the mouth. Blech.
- Cynicism Catalyst: Jenna Lane. Interestingly, it wasn't her death that screwed Harmony up - it was that Harmony was helpless to stop their father regularly raping Jenna from a very young age.
- Deadpan Snarker: Pretty much the entire cast spends the movie snarking at each other, but none more so than Perry.
Harry: So are you really gay?
"Gay" Perry: Oh no, I'm knee-deep in pussy. I just love the name so much, I can't get rid of it.
- Deconstructor Fleet
- Disney Death: Gay Perry.
- Dogged Nice Guy: Harry. Really.
- Dude, She's Like, in a Coma!: Happens twice: When Harmony falls asleep at a party, her date feels up her thigh, prompting Harry to stand up for her and get beaten up in the process. When she faints later on, he tries to swat a spider from her cleavage, waking her up and making her think that he was groping her.
- Electric Torture: Harry gets his genitals shocked by one of the villain's goons.
- Ending Fatigue: Defied by Harry.
: Don't worry, I saw Lord of the Rings
. I'm not going to end this seventeen times.
- Enforced Method Acting: Inverted In-Universe with Harry's 'audition' in the beginning, where he's mistaken for an actor. Actually, he was running from the police and barged into the room by chance. It's perfect for the part he's reading from, however.
- Exact Words:
Pink-Haired Girl: It's nothing against your boss. I'm grateful. I just —
Mustard: I spoke to him. You'll never have to go through anything like that again. I swear.
Pink-Haired Girl: Promise?
Mustard: Yep. (He murders her.)
- Fair Play Whodunnit: Played straight, and also invoked in the narration:
Harry: How about you, movie-goer? Have you figured out the case of the dead people in LA yet?
- False Roulette: Subverted. Harry really does leave a bullet in the gun, counting on probability. The results are brilliant.
Harry: I just put in one bullet, didn't I?
Perry: You put a live round in that gun?
: [stammers] Well yeah, there was, like, an 8% chance
- Fake-Out Make-Out: Perry plants a big one on Harry to fool a passerby (or if you prefer, Batman planted one on Iron Man).
- Fakeout Opening: Begins at a church fair with a kid doing magic. Yes, Harry lampshades this too.
- Femme Fatale: Subverted by Harmony: she's coded this way, being alluring, sexual and a heap of trouble for Harry, but she's just a well-meaning screw-up like him.
- Film Noir: Noir clichés are lampshaded repeatedly in the plot.
- Fingore: Harmony slamming her door in Harry's face — and on his finger, breaking it clean off. He has it reattached only to be torn off again and eaten by a dog.
- First-Person Smartass: Harry's narration.
- At the end of the second act, Harry and Harmony note that everything turned out like a Jonny Gossamer novel, except in the books he always ends up getting tortured before escaping and shooting a bunch of mooks. Come the real close of the case, Harry then ends up getting tortured before he and Perry escape and have a shoot-out with Dexter and his mooks.
- When Harry is retrieving Perry's phone from his pocket after he gets shot, his ringtone is "I Will Survive". Of course he's Not Quite Dead.
- Freudian Slip: When Harry is narrating as he stares at Harmony's chest in-story:
: And yeah, looking back, I maybe should've said something, told her I wasn't really a nipple—DETECTIVE
. Detective. Uhm, sorry...
- Genius Ditz: Harry. Most often he's just The Ditz, but if any situation requires the hands of a magician-turned-thief, he's definitely your guy.
- Genre Savvy: References to Noir abound, and Harmony's extensive knowledge of pulp crime novels comes in handy. There turns out to be a reason for that - Harlan Dexter, who played Johnny Gossamer in an old movie and has all those novels at his home, is behind the crime.
- Perry knows his film noir, too. Particularly the part about how mooks always stick guns directly against the hero's back, when professionals in real life know to never, ever do this.
- Perry also uses his savviness to get out of another such situation, when he uses a homophobe's prejudices against him by keeping a tiny revolver stashed next to his crotch, knowing that the guy would never bother to check there.
- Gilligan Cut: Harry delivers a Badass Boast when challenging Harmony's molester date to a fight. We then cut Harry getting beaten up like a helpless high school kid.
- Good Cop/Bad Cop: Played for laughs.
Gay Perry: You don't get it, do you? This isn't good cop/bad cop, this is fag and New Yorker. You're in a lot of trouble.
- Grammar Nazi: Harmony corrects Harry when he says "I feel badly". Harry later tries to do the same to Perry when Perry urges him to "sleep badly", but it doesn't work out.
- Have I Mentioned I am Gay?: Every two minutes for "Gay" Perry, but no actual action (the fake kiss doesn't count).
- Heroic Second Wind: Harmony calls Harry and motivates him to utterly destroy the Big Bad and remaining Mooks, despite the fact he had just been shot.
- Hilarious Outtakes: Ones that are almost funnier than the actual film.
- Hollywood California: Harry is a Fish out of Water in the Hollywood scene.
- How Many Fingers?:
Harmony: (puts four fingers up) How many fingers?
Harry: Will you put that cat down? I'm allergic.
- How We Got Here
- I Call Her "Vera": Perry's "faggot gun".
"It's only good for a couple of shots, then you have to drop it for something better."
- Idiot Hero: Oh, Harry.
Perry: You! Stop multiplying!
- I Just Shot Marvin in the Face/Juggling Loaded Guns: The scene in which Harry accidentally shoots a mook he and Perry are interrogating seems to straddle the line between these tropes.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: Harry in the climatic scene, apparently out of sheer Heroic Resolve. Meanwhile, the villains can't hit the broad side of a barn.
- Intoxication Ensues: When Harry's painkillers kick in:
Harry: Honey, put me on the list, I'll drop by. I'll see if I can stir up the kettle, stick out my hat, see if anyone shoots at it. (bursts into giggles)
- Kick the Son of a Bitch: Perry to Harmony's father at the end.
- Knight In Sour Armour: Perry's the second type. He's mildly corrupt in the way of all Film Noir protagonists, but still does the right thing, despite bitching the whole way.
- Lampshade Hanging: So much so that Harry's narrative questions the tropes and clichés being used. For example, at the end of the party sequence:
: Oookay, I apologize. That is a terrible scene, it's like "Why was that in the movie? Gee, you think maybe it'll come back later maybe?"
I hate that: a TV's on, talking about the new power plant — hmm, wonder where the climax might happen.
- Lampshaded the Obscure Reference: When two goons appear to accost Harry, one of them introduces himself and his colleague as "Ike, Mike, and Mustard"note . Harry doesn't get it, and even the other goon outright agrees that it's pretty damn obscure, and the two start arguing over it.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: A lot could be written about the many different ways in which the fourth wall is nudged in this movie.
- Characters frequently comment on the quality of the writing, catching each other on misused phrases, overly obscure references. At one point a man complains that the death threat he's receiving is grammatically ambiguous.
- Same can be said about acting and Hollywood. Some characters refer to each other performing skills and comment on actors' careers :
Perry: [to Harry] Shit. Better be improving your acting.
- At the climax as Gay Perry is about to explain the plot to Harry and Harmony he says "Do you see where I'm going with this?" Equally him talking the characters and the writer talking to the audience.
- Lemony Narrator: Harry.
- Little Useless Gun: Subverted
- Male Gaze: Harry misses plot point 2 because he's staring at Harmony's chest. Lampshaded because he's also narrating and commits a Freudian Slip while he's trying to relate the plot point.
- Medium Awareness/No Fourth Wall: Harry is completely aware that he is narrating a story, but it takes a unique twist when he's even aware of stuff happening in the movie; during one flashback sequence, he even points out a bad camera shot:
Harry: I don't want to put this on you, but if you've been paying attention, I shouldn't have to— great, no wonder, Ma and Pa Kettle. [sarcastic] "I got an idea, why not put these two lame-o extras in front of the mammoth fucking lens?" Boo! Scat! Fat lady, leave!
- Meaningful Name: Gay Perry. Or Gay Paree?
- Metaphorgotten: When the mooks at the Christmas party appear: note
: Well now, here we all are. Ike, Mike and Mustard. Harry
: What the hell does that mean? Mook 2
: You know, I'm with him on this one, man. That's pretty fucking obscure
. Mook 1
: Horse shit, I hear that all the time!
[...] Mook 1
: You wanna know who we are? I'm the frying pan, see? And my boy over here, he's— Mook 2
: Mustard. I'm Mr. Mustard, baby.
- Mood Motif: A diegetic example occurs when Harry and Perry are dying: a barely conscious Harmony calls Harry on a Perry's phone, prompting Perry's ringtone ("I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor) to play as Harry is spurred into fighting.
- Mood Whiplash: For some reason, the topic of Harmony's sister Jenna just sucks all the comedy out of the room. This is lampshaded in the end by Harry's narration.
- Never Suicide: It actually is a suicide, even though the characters assume it isn't and the suicide fits cleanly into one theory on what happened.
- Nominal Hero: Before losing some of it near the end, Perry was this fused with a Type II Anti-Hero.
- No Name Given: Those Two Guys who dice metaphors. Even in the credits, their actors are referred to as their final nicknames: "Mr. Frying Pan" and "Mustard".
- Zig zagged with Shannyn Sossamon's character — even though she is eventually named, she is still dubbed "Pink Haired Girl".
- Nonchalant Dodge: Perry wins this award for insulting a roomful of party-goers, then deftly ducking a bottle thrown at him without so much as a blink.
- Not What It Looks Like: A funny example. Perry forcibly kisses Harry to make some cops move along. Harmony witnesses the kiss and asks why they were making out. Cut to Harry VOing that he managed to convince her he wasn't gay and that he's not going to tell us how.
- Old Friend: Harmony was Harry's childhood crush; when she shows up, hijinks ensue.
- The One That Got Away: Harmony for Harry
- One-Hit Polykill: A bullet goes through Perry and hits Harry, but they both survive.
- Only a Flesh Wound: Happens twice to Harry.
- A gunshot wound to the shoulder doesn't seem to slow him down at all in the final showdown.
- This also occurs near the start of the movie after Harry is shot in the arm through his partner. Harry is still able to run from the cops and accidentally pass an audition with no trouble.
- Only in It for the Money: The Jonny Gossamer author Joe Chester, who stated that "the whole series was bullshit" and that "he was in it for the money."
- Overly Long Gag: Harry meets Harmony several times while standing at her door entrance. When she gets mad, she slams the door in his face, and every time, right before it slams loudly, we get an undistinct shot of him leaning with his hand in the doorway, as if she is going to shut his fingers in the door. While not so much of a gag by itself, it kinda Crosses the Line Twice in a Brick Joke way, when she actually cut one of his fingers this way.
- Parallel Porn Titles: Parodied; Harmony's colleague hides a pirated movie for her in a "Lord of the Cock-rings" box.
- Parental Incest:
- Place Worse Than Death
Harry: Swell, they're enjoying Baltimore. I'm lying here with my brains out.
Perry: I've been to Baltimore, you win.
- Playing with a Trope: And having the time of its life.
- Playing Gertrude: Harry and Harmony are the same age. Robert Downey Jr. is eleven years older than Michelle Monaghan.
- Pocket Protector: Subverted: Harry, after being shot, pulls out a Johnny Gossamer book with a hole in it.
Harmony: (laughing) Oh, cool! It stopped the bullet, Harry! (She pokes her finger through the hole in the book and frowns)
Harry: No, not really. (passes out)
- Posthumous Character: Harmony's sister, Jenna, who only appears thrice as a background character: as an out-of-focus girl being taken from her bed; as a pair of feet after her suicide; and as a blur through the window when she spots Dexter.
- Private Detective: Perry is a professional private detective, while Harry is supposed to be learning the trade for a role.
- Private Eye Monologue: Harry's tangy narration.
I was tired. I was pissed. I was wetter than Drew Barrymore at a grunge club.
- Punny Name: "Gay" Perry.
- Reality Ensues: See False Roulette above.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Perry delivers one to Harmony's and Jenna's father at the end of the film.
- Red Herring: The murder case involving Harmony's sister Jenna. Granted, it is one of the events that sets the main plot in motion, but the case itself turns out to be a standard, pretty irrelevant case of suicide.
- Retirony: Harry's partner in crime.
- Saw a Woman in Half: Double Subverted in the opening.
- Sexy Santa Dress: Harmony's Christmas cocktail outfit.
- Shoot Out the Lock: Harry shoots open the trunk lock of the sinking car in order to free the girl, who was dead at that point to begin with.
- Director Shane Black has stated that the Philip Marlowe books by Raymond Chandler are a heavy influence on the movie;
- Every chapter is named after a Chandler book: "Trouble Is My Business", "The Lady In The Lake", "The Little Sister", "The Simple Art Of Murder", and "Farewell My Lovely".
- Harmony also holds a love for novels that are very aesthetically similar to Marlowe books (albeit written by the fictional Joe Chester).
- The title itself is a Shout-Out to both the 60's slang for noir spy movies and the unused Thunderball theme "Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang".
- Harmony's baseball bat has "Wonder Girl" written on it, acting as a reference to Roy's "Wonder Boy" bat in The Natural.
- The Buddy Cop script Harry reads involves a character telling another to "Go spit", referencing Lethal Weapon (which Shane Black previously wrote).
- This sequence with a classical Beam Me Up, Scotty!, lampshaded :
: I BET you if you look in their childhood, there is something rotten in Denver
- Shut Up, Hannibal!: Harry interrupts Mr. Fire's "tough guy" speech with a few bullets to the chest.
- Sleeps with Everyone but You: Harmony slept with every guy in high school but Harry, who was her Unlucky Childhood Friend, and his friend Chutney out of loyalty to Harry. Except that she slept with Chutney, too. Needless to say, Harry is not pleased to learn this.
- The Snark Knight: Perry to Harry mainly.
- Snark-to-Snark Combat: Perry and Harry. Constantly.
- Stop Helping Me!: Harry kindly asks Perry to quit antagonizing Aurelio, the man who has just strapped electrodes to Harry's privates. However, the trope is usually invoked by Perry, who often has the situation in hand until Harry comes bumbling through it.
- Straight Gay: "Gay" Perry, who is a badass and generally avoids gay stereotypes. On the other hand, he has several Camp Gay moments, such as having "I Will Survive" as a ringtone.
- Spit Take: Harmony gets a couple in response to Harry's celebrity-doppelganger-spotting, with him apparently timing them to the exact moment she's taking a drink.
- Suddenly Shouting:
Harmony: She predicted that murder, Harry! She sent you and Perry to that exact spot!
Harry: That whole thing is wild. You know what else is nuts? THAT YOU CUT OFF MY FINGER!
- Take That: Harry gets several, which covers other people, movies, and even viewers on occasion.
: I was tired. I was pissed. I was wetter than Drew Barrymore
at a grunge club.
- Taking the Bullet: Subverted. Perry puts himself between Harry and a mook, simultaneously shooting the mook and taking a bullet... but the bullet goes straight through Perry and hits Harry anyway.
- There Is Only One Bed: Harry initially claims to be fine with sharing chastely, but gets uncomfortable when she cuddles up to him and he gets a boner.
- This Is Reality: Perry. "Do not play detective. This is not a book. This is not a movie."
- This is also the main point of the film: tearing down all the palatable trappings of a cool detective story, leaving a very sour reality-based story, but with a veneer of winks-to-the-audience and snappy banter reminding us why the fake stories are fun in the first place.
- Those Two Bad Guys: Mr. Frying Pan and Mustard.
- ¡Three Amigos!: Harry, Perry and Harmony make up the Token Trio variety.
- Took a Level in Badass: Harry.
- Trapped in a Sinking Car: Harry tries to free a girl from the trunk of a sinking car. His desperate attempt to Shoot Out the Lock of the trunk results in giving the girl a headshot. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
- Unexplained Recovery: Lampshaded by Perry being accompanied in the hospital by the assorted dead of the film, as well as Lincoln and Elvis Presley.
- Unreliable Narrator: Harry occasionally criticizes himself for his poor narration.
- Urine Trouble: Harry spotting a corpse next to him while he's taking a leak, then turning around mid-stream. Oops.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Harry and Perry.
- Walk In Chime In:
Perry: See that? Obedient little bitches, too.
Girl: Fuck you! (throws glass, misses)
- With Friends Like These...: Harry and Perry.
- Working the Same Case: Just like in those detective pulps they used to read.
- World of Snark
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Harry throwing Perry's pistol in the lake so it won't be found. His $2,000, customized Vektor CP1 given to him by his mother, now practically gift-wrapped for the cops to find when they dredge the lake.
- You Make Me Sic: One scene has Harmony telling Harry that "I feel badly" should be "I feel bad." He later tries to show off by 'correcting' Perry's "Sleep badly," only to be corrected yet again.
- You Suck: Harry occasionally chides the audience in his narration.