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Kiss Kiss (Bang Bang) (Rental)

20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox . R4 . COLOR . 97 mins . MA15+ . PAL


Felix (Stellan Skarsgård) is the last of a dying breed; an aging assassin and member of the London underworld who has always prided himself on his professionalism and attention to detail. But the old guard and their antiquated value systems have long since passed on, and the assassins’ guild he helped establish is now filled with young hot-heads flushed with amphetamine-fuelled bravado and state of the art automatic weapons. After a botched hit in a public swimming pool, Felix can no longer ignore the slow decline in his standards and, having long ago lost the taste for his craft, decides to quit the life; passing the torch to his now fully trained apprentice Jimmy (Paul Bettany).

However, with a stack of debts hanging over his head, Felix is in no position to adopt the easy life, and immediately sets about looking for another source of income. With a severely limited repertoire of non-lethal skills, Felix isn’t quite the hot prospect he had hoped, and in desperation he accepts a job as bodyguard for an under-developed 33 year-old named Bubba (Chris Penn). Having never even set foot outside his home, under Felix's neglectful care the world comes up to hit poor Bubba full in the face; greeting it as he does with a wide-eyed mixture of fear and excitement. However, in no time at all, Felix has taught Bubba to drink, smoke and swear, related the secrets of the supermarket, the perils of the fairer sex, and the magic of Barry White.

But, as Felix should well know, it’s not so easy to turn your back on the underworld, and guild leader Big Bob (a seriously over-the-top Allan Corduner) puts out a hit on our poor hero; not too hard given the resources at his disposal. All too eagerly, his motley bunch of cutthroats (a little too motley – the quirkyness is none too subtle here) set out to pursue our odd couple; and Felix's protégé Jimmy is forced to play a dangerous game of guardian angel. But impending death is not Felix’s only problem. His girlfriend Sherry (Jacqueline McKenzie) is pregnant, and not only does she want to keep the baby, she thinks Felix would make a fine daddy...

In Kiss Kiss (Bang Bang) first time writer-director Stewart Sugg attempts to (yet again) meld the crime genre with a quirky buddy comedy, and whilst the results are mildly entertaining, it doesn’t quite make good on its interesting premise and a great lead cast. Certainly the film grabbed me in the first ten minutes with its stylish, quirky opening scene, but all too soon Kiss Kiss (Bang Bang) adopts a snail’s pace; taking forever and a day to complete the first act, and languishing until midway through the second when the beautiful Ms McKenzie makes her welcome appearance.

Above all it is the writing that lets the film down. Whilst containing some entertaining set pieces - a nicotine overdose brought on by a hundred simultaneous patches being one of them - there just isn’t enough meat on the bones. Wonderful character actors in their own rights, Stellan and Jacqueline certainly have their moments, and despite a script that has him silent and doeful for most of the film, Chis Penn provides quite a reasonable Forrest Gump. But their best efforts are hampered at every turn by dangling subplots, poor dialogue and a bunch of laughably underwritten and over-played supporting roles.


Despite a DVD cover that rather prominently touts a ‘widescreen enhanced’ presentation, Fox's single-layer pressing of Kiss Kiss (Bang Bang) is a full-frame, pan and scan affair; and rather a disappointing one at that. Despite being taken from a crystal clean print, the image displays a noticeable amount of film grain and although the transfer is reasonably sharp (resulting in one particularly conspicuous instance of moiré) the grain serves to reduce the general level of detail on display to little more than acceptable. Shadow detail is even more of a problem, with lowly-lit scenes disappearing into large areas of blackness; many of which are tinged with low-level noise. While black level is problematic, the drab colours of a dreary, rain-swept London are well rendered, skin tones are faithful and, thankfully, the image is devoid of compression related artefacts. All this adds up to a video presentation that, although far from unwatchable, is below par for contemporary DVD releases.


A consequence of the film’s relatively low budget, Kiss Kiss (Bang Bang) provides only a rudimentary Dolby Digital surround mix that, whilst serviceable enough, is rooted squarely in the front channels. Although dialogue remains clear and distinct for the duration of the film, the mix displays only a small amount of front channel separation, and ventures to the surround channel only when the action heats up (which is infrequently). At these times, whilst the various channels remain indistinct, the sounds of gunshots and ricochets expand to fill the room. For these brief moments the the subwoofer too, whilst remaining quiet for the majority of the film, is able to add its considerable voice to proceedings. Certainly Kiss Kiss (Bang Bang) is not a title with which to impress your new girlfriend/boyfriend/dog/cat/whatever.


In terms of extras, with only a single-layer to make use of this rental only release is far from impressive. What we do get is the theatrical trailer - infuriatingly presented in widescreen (non-anamorphic, 1.85:1), some quite detailed bios of the four lead actors and several other minor players, a photo gallery comprising 11 stills taken from the film and some additional trailers for other Palace titles: Don’s Plum, Australian Rules and The Last Kiss.


All in all, whilst Kiss Kiss (Bang Bang) could have been a whole lot worse, it certainly could have been better. Although it's always good to see the likes of Stellan Skarsgård and our own Jacqueline McKenzie getting work, I just can't bring myself to enthusiastically endose what is effectively only a half-baked offering. Incredible as it sounds, Fox have decided to initially release Kiss Kiss (Bang Bang) as a rental-only title, and personally I would heed their advice. I certainly suggest renting before you consider a future sell-through purchase.

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      And I quote...
    "Despite great leads and a reasonable premise, Kiss Kiss (Bang Bang) is let down by poor writing, a woeful supporting cast, and the dreaded pan-and-scan..."
    - Gavin Turner
      Review Equipment
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          Toshiba SD-2108
    • TV:
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    • Receiver:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Amplifier:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Speakers:
          B&W 602
    • Centre Speaker:
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    • Surrounds:
          JM Lab Cobalt SR20
    • Subwoofer:
          B&W ASW-500
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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