October 28, 2005

"Kiss Kiss Bang Bang"

My review appears in the new American Conservative, available to electronic subscribers this weekend. A brief excerpt:

"Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" is a comic tribute to two of the richest veins of American pop culture during the last century: the hard-boiled Hollywood private eye novel, invented by Raymond Chandler in 1939's The Big Sleep, and its cousin, the LAPD mismatched buddy cop movie, honed to commercial perfection by screenwriter Shane Black in 1987's "Lethal Weapon."

After making himself perhaps the highest paid and most despised screenwriter, Black disappeared a decade ago. Now, Black is back with a loving spoof of the Chandlerian tradition, an ingenious, self-satirical contrivance that would be incomprehensible to anyone not familiar with Chandler's glorious cinematic offspring, such as "Chinatown," "Blade Runner," "LA Confidential," and "The Big Lebowski." Indeed, "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" is so fast-paced and convoluted that it's close to impenetrable, period. As in Chandler's Philip Marlowe novels, figuring out whodunnit takes a back seat to just enjoying the ride.

To play his detective leads, Black was able to hire cheaply two of the most gifted but least trustworthy stars, Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer. When just a small boy, Downey began receiving recreational drugs from his father, the leftist director of "Putney Swope." His abusive upbringing appears to have rewired his brain, connecting it directly to his mouth, making him superhumanly articulate, but also deactivating all the normal circuits for self-restraint and common sense. Watching this wounded man-child play a lovable loser to perfection resembles what it must have been like listening to the great castrati sing arias -- simultaneously awe-inspiring and guilt-inducing.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

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