Directed by Justin Baird
So I'm guessing you haven't seen the trailers advertising "Mike Case in: The Big Kiss Off" during the Sunday Night Football games. And maybe you didn't notice it on the front page of IMDB. And possibly even missed the Mike Case blimp on it's 12-city tour.
No, none of that happened. What I'm driving at here is that "The Big Kiss Off" is a low-budget movie that may have never came across my radar if not for a Facebook friendship with the folks at IndieRights Distribution. It's a surprising friendship since they sent me a literal box full of DVD's of which I've only watched and reviewed a few.
But "Mike Case" didn't end up in the DVD box. I was actually contacted by a producer/star/co-writer on the film who'd hoped I might take a look and offer a review. Of course, if that producer had visited this site he may have not even offered. It's not like I've been active lately. And I confess, my first instinct was to politely decline. But, I was in the mood for something different, and in the mood to write, and I'm a big nut for noir. So I said yes. And the result is as follows.
"The Big Kiss Off" is a comedy. It plays with all the common traits of the classic noir films of yesteryear. And it does a pretty good job of covering its bases. There's a first-person narrator, plenty of women, ditto booze, and a murder mystery. Mike Case is dressed like he just stepped out of a Nicolas Ray or John Huston movie even though the setting is modern.
The film has some legitimately funny moments. It felt like those moments were very loosely scripted. And other times the characters all spoke simultaneously a la Robert Altman. So I'm guessing there was a lot of improv on the set, which was probably a blast to work on.
Standouts, to me, included Sunil Sadarangani as new-age scheister Tamal Dupta. Also, the character of Vinnie, played by Dale Shane had some funny moments. Vinnie's got an effeminate voice and shows a lot of sympathy as he's giving beat downs. The owner of the "Freaky Tiki Bar" gives some good dialogue in the opening. He's being asked for information but keeps talking about how expensive things are. When Mike Case gives him some money to 'jog his memory', the bartender admits he knows nothing, but it was worth a try, eh? Oh, and Atoy Wilson as "Bootsie" deserves a shout-out as well. His chemistry with Les Mahoney makes for some good improv.
Also, there's a guy who pops out of nowhere to around the 39 minute mark who gives us the most entertaining 3 minutes in the film. His dialogue is nonsensical and rambling and just plain funny. I'm not sure who plays him and I don't think his character has a name. The scene's not even particularly important in terms of plot. But damn it's fun to watch. Here's a quote:
"Those cockamamie, back-stabbing, barn-burning, upside-down, Bible-thumping bastards who ruined the life that I had planned. The billows of smoke that come out of my ass are just like them. That's what they do. They get into your brain and come out your ass. "
In the starring role, Les Mahoney does an adequate job as Mike Case. His best scenes are those in which he's angry or frustrated. I didn't find his romantic charm all that charming. But, in classic noir, there was really no reason for the detective to always get the girl, he just did.
Now for some criticism.
The narration wasn't very good. Typically that type of narration is dead-panned, but here there's a fair amount of emotional inflection. I just want the facts, ma'am. And honestly, I think having Mahoney play his dialogue a little straighter would have made the film funnier, too. I would have liked to see them take the Leslie Neilsen approach with Mike Case. Make him the straight-shooter in a world full of crazy.
The other thing that bothered is the length of certain scenes. I just wanted to yell "Cut!" from time-to-time. It was obvious that the actors were given some lee-way with their lines, but that doesn't mean you have to use everything they come up with. So, to me, certain scenes felt like mediocre SNL sketches, getting you to laugh but then reaching a point of diminishing return. Of course, if they had edited things my way the film may have been cut from 1:16 to less than an hour, which may have raised all new concerns.
Let's face it, this film is for folks who like indie films. Some people just don't find them palatable. So if you do like low-budget comedy, you could do much worse than "The Big Kiss Off". I would definitely recommend it to fans of classic noir. And I really appreciated that the "Special Thanks" section of the credits included tons of hard-boiled authors like Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammet. It's proof that the filmmakers know the material their satirizing, which is the way it should be.