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KISS KISS BANG BANG

A Taste For Violence
There had never been a story like it before. 

In 1986, a 23 year-old recent UCLA graduate named Shane Black finished writing a draft of his first screenplay. Within a week, producer Joel Silver optioned it, and together with director Richard Donner they ushered in a new era of filmmaking with Lethal Weapon, a character-driven hybrid of comedy and the adrenaline-fueled action genre emerging under the auspices of Silver, producer of the seminal action films Commando and Predator. 

Starring Mel Gibson and Danny Glover as mismatched cops battling a drug-smuggling ring, Lethal Weapon established Black's his flair for creating characters as explosive as his frenetic action sequences and dialogue to match. Its blockbuster success spawned three Lethal Weapon sequels, influenced a generation of filmmakers and set the bar for countless imitations.

A new genre was born: the buddy/action movie. 

"Shane has a unique voice that comes through in everything he writes,” says Silver, who helped to reinvent action filmmking in 1988 with Die Hard and again in 1999 as the producer of The Matrix. "Whether he's honoring the conventions of the genre or deliberately defying them, he always brands his films with original characters, innovative action and memorable dialogue. His writing style is as entertaining as the movies that wind up on the screen.”

"The films that interest me tend to be those that combine two elements in a way that we haven't seen before,” says Black, whose Lethal Weapon screenplay paired a a veteran detective with a suicidal younger cop whose unorthodox behavior sets off a surprising mix of comedy and suspense. 

Black first visited the detective myth in Silver's 1991 production The Last Boy Scout, a buddy/action picture starring Bruce Willis as a down-and-out private eye looking for redemption when he teams up with a disgraced ex-quarterback, played by Damon Wayans, to investigate corruption in the high-stakes world of professional football. His forceful 1996 script, The Long Kiss Goodnight, features a fourth-rate P.I. played by Samuel L. Jackson who discovers that Geena Davis' amnesiac schoolteacher is actually a deadly secret agent working to overthrow the government. 

Black's drive to explore the action/crime milieu was greatly influenced by his boyhood obsession with detective novels – cheap paperbacks populated with hard boiled private eyes and dames in distress; risque stories where two seemingly unrelated cases intersect in a confluence of scandal and murder, and bittersweet justice always prevails. 

"I read The Hardy Boys and The Three Investigators, the suspense fiction intended for kids, but my childhood heroes tended to be in the adult section of the library,” Black says. "I loved detective stories, and I devoured them. I've literally read hundreds of them. I wasn't allowed to read them when I was a kid because they were racy, so I would sneak them. I'd save my lunch money – I wouldn't eat for three days so I could buy the new Mike Shayne book, or the new Shell Scott, or Chester Drum. The racy scenes were great but I loved the mystery. There was a real kind of masculine, rough-hewn rhythm to those caper novels, and I acquired an even deeper sense of them that was emotional and powerful. If I hadn't read those stories, I wouldn't be writing movies. 

"My fascination with the myth of the private eye and my obsession with those pulp novels needed an outlet when I became an adult,” he elaborates. "To some extent I explored it in Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout. But I'd never attempted a private eye piece that summed up all the different things I felt about those books and always wanted to try. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang specifically pays homage to the detective stories I read when I was a kid.”

The setting for Black's Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is a tarnished promised land

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