By guest reviewer Lynne Truss
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang? I'm fairly certain there ought to be some punctuation in that title. Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang, perhaps. Or Kiss, Kiss; Bang, Bang. I'd even accept Kiss, Kiss; Bang! Bang! Luckily, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (as it insists on being known) makes up for its title's lack of punctuation by featuring several scenes in which characters correct one another's grammar. Obviously writer-director Shane Black is, like all sensible people, a fan of my book, Eats, Shoots & Leaves. (Available now in paperback just in time for Christmas.)
In any event, grammar and punctuation are last year's bees in last year's bonnet. This year, I'm establishing myself as a manners nazi with my new book, Talk to the Hand. (Available now just in time for Christmas.) Kiss Kiss Bang Bang fares poorly in the politeness stakes, and I intend to give it the verbal equivalent of a rap over the knuckles with a hard, blunt object - say, one of my early, justifiably-overlooked novels. (Available now in a budget-priced bulk set just in time for Christmas.)
I ought to preface this talking-to by asserting that, contrary to what you might construe from the way I'm always telling people off, I am in fact a liberal. I mention this to pre-emptively assuage the guilt I will feel later on when I quote approvingly from the right-wing polemic of Theodore Dalrymple. I will also serve up a smidgen of self-deprecation and say that I am by no means perfect myself, so any criticisms I make are more in the way of grumbling than preaching, even though it is painfully obvious that my analysis of society's ills is based on the presumption that I am right and everybody else is wrong, and the world would be a better place if everybody would just do as I say. Yes, I have authoritarian tendencies, but I feel bad about them - yet more proof of my left-wing credentials.
Now, on with the review. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is funny, exciting and often very clever. Nevertheless, I loathed it. (Just so you know, when I wrote the word loathed, I actually mouthed it to myself and felt a small thrill at the way a single word can simultaneously summarise and justify one's carefully cultivated superiority complex. I must use it again soon.) Yes, I loathed it. (Ahhh...) Why? Because it is rude. A rude, grotty American film about rude, grotty Americans doing rude, grotty American things. (Editors of syndicating American newspapers, please remove previous sentence and replace with: "Because of Val Kilmer's double chin.")
For one thing, the narrator constantly interupts the story. Some call this "post-modern", but in a better time (i.e. whenever I get around to ruling the world) it will be known for what it is: rudeness. Likewise the excessive swearing. Yes, one of the characters does apologise for the heavy use of the f-word, but no contrition is evident concerning the c-word, which makes a surprise early appearance. Oh, but Lynne, I hear you say (by the way, I prefer Ms Truss, thank you), the f- and c-words are so common, even children are using them these days, surely nobody could possibly find them offensive. Well I find them offensive, and I'm clearly the one that matters. As Theodore Dalrymple says, "People who swear should be hung." (I'm paraphrasing. Dalrymple actually says that people who swear should be hung, drawn, and quartered and the pieces mailed to potential swearers as a deterrent.)
Then there is the total lack of courtesy shown by the characters. Yes, Robert Downey Jr. does mumble an apology when he cuts in front of somebody in a doorway, but other than that it's all hanging up phones without saying goodbye, punching people in the jaw, and generally behaving as if civilisation as we know it has ended, which, by the way, it has. The actors are complicit in this display of poor manners. Take the female lead, Michelle Monaghan. Her attractiveness is very rude to the unattractive women in the audience, not to mention their husbands who might find they tumesce, quite unwillingly, every time she is on screen. How dare she impose her perky breasts on an innocent audience. Finally (although I could go on), I dislike the lifestyle depicted in the movie. Sex and drink and murder and girls with dyed pink hair - is this the contemporary world, or some post-apocalyptic, Mad Max-esque scenario? Whatever it is, I find it highly offensive. As Theodore Dalrymple says, "People with dyed pink hair are scum." (I'm paraphrasing again. Dalrymple actually says that people with dyed pink hair are scum who should be killed and their bodies rendered into nutrient-rich feed for battery hens. The man is nothing if not an astute analyst of the modern condition.)
I loathed this film with my every fibre, especially since the time I spent watching it and writing this review could have been more profitably spent supervising the production of my forthcoming book, Can't Truss It: The Collected Works of Lynne Truss. It will be available just in time for next Christmas. If you don't buy a copy, you are obviously a rude person who probably doesn't understand punctuation, and I shan't hesitate to drive over your legs if I see you in the street.