A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a 2005 action movie in which Robert Downey Jr. plays a NYC thief who, through a bizarre twist of fate, ends up in LA and must solve a murder. There's frequent violence and profanity in this post-modernist take on noir films. Language includes "f--k," "c--t," and "p--sy." While the movie addresses the sexual abuse of the lead characters and her sister, there is also a scene in which Downey Jr.'s character, even after knowing what the lead character/love interest/crush from his teen years went through, speaks disparagingly about women in Los Angeles and how they've all been sexually abused and that's why they act the way they do. Lead character has his index finger severed. He's later tortured by bad guys, shown screaming in excruciating pain while getting electric shocks to his testicles. Brief female nudity: breasts. Some drinking and cigarette smoking; the character who has his index finger severed is shown in the next scene to be high on Demerol. One of the other lead characters makes many dry-humored cracks about being gay, but other characters also make similar jokes. In a voice-over, lead character says that he is "wetter than Drew Barrymore at a grunge club." Overall, the stylized cynicism and unrelenting violence and profanity make this a movie for older teens and adults only.
What's the story?
Set in Los Angeles, KISS KISS BANG BANG centers on Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.), a thief who inadvertently stumbles into a screen test and gets a role as a private detective. As research for the role, Gary spends time with a real P.I., Gay Perry (Val Kilmer). Things start to get out of hand for Harry and Perry when a mysterious client sets them up to witness some men dumping a body in a lake. And then there's the girl...Harmony Faith Lane (Michelle Monaghan). Harry's in love with her but hasn't seen her since they were kids. Harmony, Harry, and Perry are brought together by the deaths of two young girls, one of whom is Harmony's sister. Were both deaths murders or was one a suicide? What motive would anyone have to kill either one of the girls? And why do scary men with guns seem to turn up everywhere? These are the questions that move the film along its fast-paced storyline.
Is it any good?
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a fragmented and jumpy flick fraught with beautiful people, comic books, and violence. Robert Downey Jr. is fun to watch, but he plays the neurotic, caring Harry the way some people might play a dope fiend. His character can be touching and sincere, but at the same time, he doesn't seem real. As Gay Perry, Val Kilmer delivers crude, self-deprecating one-liners about being homosexual, which he seems to flaunt out of resentment. His character lacks the nuance necessary to make him believable. Harmony is the strongest and most interesting character in the movie, but we're given enough of her past to hold our interest, then her storyline falls apart into choppy confusion.
The film is entertaining at times but lacks something that would make it a great movie. It tries to be hip, but hip is more than snazzy lines told by flippant, sexy people who shoot each other. A little more substance and care, and this movie would have been much better.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about remaining true to one's convictions in difficult or out-of-the-ordinary situations. When, if ever, is the use of violence "okay?" Is it ever acceptable to tell lies or steal?
As a contemporary take on noir movies, how does this movie both conform to and play with the conventions of the genre?
How does this movie address the topic of sexually-abused children?
For kids who love comedic action
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.