Kiss Kiss Bang Bang at Hoyts, Broadway

I really enjoyed Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. I thought it was funny and clever, but not so impressed with its own cleverness that it lost its appeal (which can sometimes be a problem with films like this). The dialogue was great, and Val Kilmer and Robert Downey Jnr’s delivery was spot-on.

It’s very influenced by Raymond Chandler – all the chapter titles are the titles of Chandler books/short stories – but it could not be more different from the other Chandler-influenced movie I have seen recently, Sin City (see my comments on it). The two films may have come from some of the same places, but they found totally different things in those places, and then took them in completely different directions.

Sin City at Hoyts, Broadway

I think Sin City is the most violent movie I have ever seen. How on earth did it have an “MA” rating rather than an “R”? The violence wasn’t redundant – it was an important part of the kind of world the film was presenting – but that didn’t make it less shocking.

In some ways, the main male characters were reminiscent of Raymond Chandler. Marv, in particular, was very much descended from Moose Molloy (by way of The Maxx, with a bit of input from Wolverine), but all three of them had elements of the chivalric, protective approach towards women that is the foundation of Phillip Marlowe’s character. But they also had a sadistic side that just isn’t present in Chandler. Marv didn’t just kill people – he revelled in the slaughter and ultimately performed horrific acts of torture. And Hartigan gave way to a berserker fury when he killed the Yellow Bastard. Dwight didn’t do anything as extreme in the film, but he did casually mention that he was a murderer who had been given a new face.

Chandler said “down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. … He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor – by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world.” In Sin City, the streets were mean, but the men were not untarnished. In a way, they were men of honour, and they might even have been the best men in their world, but they were certainly not good enough for any world. Not even Hartigan, and certainly not Dwight or Marv.

The men were definitely the centre of the film. The women were all decorative – and mostly incredibly lethal – but they were objectified. The men were doing what they did for, or because of, the women. A somewhat misogynistic world view – but, again, very Chandler.

The visuals in this film were just amazing. On the black and white film, the splashes of colour had a stunning impact. And the script and performances more than matched this. In the excerpts I’d seen on At the Movies, Clive Owen’s lines had seemed stilted and unrealistic, but somehow in the context of the film they worked. Nevertheless, Dwight was the least complex of the three main characters, or, at least, the one you gained least insight into. His part of the film was more plot-driven, which made it less interesting than the other sections – though probably also less disturbing. You got a much better idea of what was driving – and I do mean driving – Hartigan and Marv, so there was a much closer connection with their stories. Also, they both had creepier villains – amazing performances from Nick Stahl and especially Elijah Wood. The women had less to work with in terms of either character or menace, but insofar as it was possible, they all gave strong performances.

One of the reviews I read described it as “style over substance”. I don’t think this is fair. Certainly, without the visual style the film would have had far less impact, but this doesn’t mean that it was without substance, in the way that, say, Kill Bill was. In fact, it probably would have been an easier film to watch if this had been the case. Rather, the visuals combined with the writing to give a powerful and disturbing picture of a world in which everything is corrupt: in which men can have chivalric ideals yet at the same time perform – and revel in – quite horrific levels of violence. The world of Sin City was morally bankrupt. Unfortunately, I’m not totally convinced that the the film wasn’t as well.

One for the Money and Two for the Dough by Janet Evanovich

I had never read any Janet Evanovich before, and I found these two books a lot of fun. Not knowing anything about her background, I first thought that the detailed descriptions of what Stephanie is wearing at all times, and what she eats, were a link to Raymond Chandler (right from the first paragraph of Chandler’s The Big Sleep, you are given a detailed description of Philip Marlowe’s clothes). However, I later discovered that her background is in romantic fiction, so it’s possible that writing these descriptions is now completely second nature to her. It’s interesting that two such completely different genres can have this kind of overlap.

As detective stories, the plots weren’t anything special (but then, neither are Chandler’s), but I enjoyed the comedy and the slightly surreal nature of the minor characters. Though I hope Stephanie does become slightly more competent as the series progresses – obviously, she’ll never be as good as Morelli or Ranger (doesn’t have their training or background) but it would be nice if just occasionally they could mess up and need her to rescue them.