top of page

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – Romance Wrapped In Bromance

A NY thief (Harry) escaping after a botched robbery, stumbles into an audition and is transported to LA where he undergoes PI training for an upcoming screen test. In LA he stumbles into his high school flame and gets entangled in a murder mystery along with the PI (Gay Perrry) who is training him.

There are many elements in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang one could dissect, as it is a writer’s film and he uses many tools and tricks at his disposal, from addressing the audience in a self-reflective way to playing with the tropes of hard-boiled stories, to the jabs at Hollywood. And the seemingly main love story of Harry and Harmony. To me, however, the main relationship is the one between Harry and Perry…

Harry is a petty thief who is given first-class treatment for a possible upcoming role in LA. There, he meets Gay Perry, a private detective who is paid by the producer to train Harry. We will find out later that the cost of putting up Harry for a few weeks is chump change in comparison to the two million dollars they’re trying to save by renegotiating the contract with Colin Farrell. In other words, Harry is a patsy. Little does he know he’ll be a double patsy as he gets sucked into a murder mystery as well.

His trainer in all skills PI is Gay Perry. Now, gay jokes aside, Gay Perry is a competent PI and a well-paid consultant to Hollywood, providing authenticity to crime films.

The stakes character is Harmony, an aspiring (and aging) actress who is also Harry’s high school crush.

Between motor-mouth Harry and smarter Perry, the odd couple is quickly entangled deeper than the student/teacher relationship when on the first stake-out, a car flies over them and lands in a lake. Trying to save whoever’s in it, they dive after it, but Perry accidentally shoots the woman in the trunk when he must shoot the lock.

Harry, not a master criminal, throws the gun into the lake, for which Perry calls him out by telling him to look up idiot in the dictionary. Now it’s personal.

Harry and Perry dump the body on an empty street and disappear. Soon after this Harry receives news that Harmony is dead. But reappears soon because there’s been a mix up after Harmony’s younger sister took her wallet, and she’s the one who allegedly committed suicide. Harmony doesn’t believe this and asks Harry to help her find out what really happened to her sister. She thinks Harry is a PI based on a previous lie.

As Harmony leaves, Harry discovers the dead body him and Perry dumped, in his bathroom. Perry gives him instructions on what to do, since he knows it’s a plant. He arrives soon thereafter and they once again have to move the dead body. During this event Perry kisses Harry as a diversion.

Perry finds out about Harry looking into Harmony’s sister’s death and informs him that it was indeed suicide.

The news have also discovered the dumped body and it turns out she’s the daughter of Harlan Dexter, a former actor turned entrepreneur.

All of this becoming too hot, Perry advises Harry to leave town and informs him that there is no role, that he’s a patsy for the producers. He proclaims, “I’m done lying to you Harry.” And confesses that he told Harmony he is not an actual PI, and that he’s not a good guy.

Harry, however, refuses to take heed and instead tracks down harmony at a party, where they discover that the film crew that came to their town when they were ids included Harlan Dexter and Harry and Harmony conclude that harmony’s sister came to LA to find him, thinking he’s her real father.

Perry doesn’t buy this, calls Harry stupid, warns him that this is real life, not a pulp novel, and departs. This warning pays off soon after when Harry witnesses another murder and has to shoot the murderer in self-defense. Perry asks him, “Is this Johnny Gossamer enough for you?”

Following hints from Harmony they end up at Dexter Harlan’s clinic and discover that the murdered girl was also a patsy for Harlan’s daughter. He used her to impersonate the daughter, withdraw a lawsuit against him, and then had her killed.

But they get caught and Harry gets tortured, just like in the Gossamer pulp stories. Perry, however, uses his secret weapon and shoots the captor.

When Harry can’t leave due to the electroshock tortures, Perry is complimentary and encouraging for the first time…is it to help or because he’s changed his mind about Harry, or both? We soon find out…because after a car chase and a shootout, Perry jumps in front of Harry and catches a bullet to save him. Big heroic move.

Injured and weak, Harry manages to save Harmony, and both he and Perry end up in the hospital, where a few days later Perry has unraveled the mystery of Harmony’s death. She did commit suicide.

The button is a PS by Harry which Perry joins…they are now business partners in the detective agency. Bantering and bickering still there, but the fact that Perry has accepted Harry as a partner implies he no longer thinks he’s an idiot. However, it does remain clear who has the upper hand.

It’s different from the usual odd-couple pairing, and perhaps that’s what’s more interesting in this story. The usual rom-com steps are mostly avoided for a more straight-line relationship, which is defined by the one-sided attitude Perry holds towards Harry, all the way until the end when he realizes Harry is not as dumb as he thought.

The most fun aspect of the relationship is the quick exchanges and humorous jabs at each other as they are both entertaining and give us bits of information.

Even though KKBB is a comedy, looking back at another Shane Black script, Lethal Weapon, the characters do reveal more personal information about themselves, and the script is stronger for it.

Written and directed by Shane Black


bottom of page