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‘Kiss Kiss’ so so

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang treads familiar territory with a premise that is a proven blueprint, but the film is so stylish it saves itself from becoming bland. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang exceeds mediocrity due to strong performances and direction with flair, but on the whole, it lacks a distinguishable storyline that will set it apart from the other flicks with very similar themes and situations.

Director Shane Black does an extraordinary job of keeping the film moving and shrouding its lead characters in mystery.

Robert Downey Jr. scores another great role in this art-house film following his work in Good Night, and Good Luck and Eros. In the film, the veteran actor seems so comfortable in the character’s shoes that it allows audiences to believe in the character rather than the actor.

The movie opens with Harry Lockhart (Downey Jr.) breaking into a toy store, only to have the alarm ruin his attempt. He manages to escape and accidentally wanders into a movie audition.

While in Los Angeles he meets a detective, Perry van Shrike (Val Kilmer), who coaches him for the upcoming role. He later meets the lovely Harmony Faith Lane (Michelle Monaghan) at a party, and soon the three characters become entwined in a murder mystery. Harmony comes to Harry for help after her sister is found dead, and together they track down the people responsible for her murder.

Kilmer, known for the tough guys he portrays in films such as The Saint, Alexander and Batman Forever, switches things up with his performance as Detective Perry, which is a stretch for the actor. It has him playing a slightly flamboyant homosexual officer, something not many could view Kilmer pulling off. Surprisingly, he does it masterfully.

Not a stranger to starring alongside strong men, Monaghan has shared the silver screen with Matt Damon and Brad Pitt and is filming Mission: Impossible III with Tom Cruise. Needless to say, Monaghan does a wonderful job of holding herself up with Kilmer and Downey Jr. She infuses the character with a strong sense of independence and vulnerability that is sure to connect with many audience members.

The film’s best performance comes from Downey Jr. and the transformation he makes to completely embody Harry, from the grungy look at the film’s outset to the sleek, glossed-over Hollywood persona he sports by the movie’s end.

Marking his directorial debut with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Black eases himself into a position of confidence. The transitions are smooth, the action is constant and the character development stays the film’s focus. Known mostly for writing screenplays to hits films such as The Long Kiss Goodnight and the Lethal Weapon franchise, Black’s first stab behind the lens is a glorious success.

As with many films before it, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’s biggest flaw is the movie’s predictability. The ending is interchangeable with dozens of other films, and the movie never rises above standard and unoriginal in the story department. Performances aside, the characters shadow those of previous films, which will have many viewers guessing what’s going to happen minutes before it does.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang definitely puts style ahead of substance, but when the package is this beautiful, it’s hard not to give in.

Grade: B-

Thriller, Running Time: 130 mins, rated R