This is Harry (Robert Downey Jr), and he'll be your narrator. He's at a party in Hollywood, and there's a funny story about how he ended up there as a few short days ago he was a petty criminal who had broken into a toy store to do a spot of last minute Christmas shopping. Unfortunately for Harry, the police showed up and he had to make a swift getaway, leaving his accomplice behind and taking refuge in the first building he could get into which turned out to be a place where auditions for a new movie were being held. The casting people thought he was an aspiring actor, and so impressed with his emotional reading, more informed by stress but they didn't know that, that they gave him a job. Harry is in over his head, mainly because he's about to be mixed up with a murder plot...
Shane Black, writer (partly adapting Brett Halliday's novel "Bodies are where You Find Them") of this convoluted comedy thriller, also made his directorial debut here as well. Black was one of the highest paid screenwriters of action movies of the late eighties and early nineties, earning fifty billion dollars and all the food he could eat for every seven pages of his scripts, but after the underperforming Last Action Hero and The Long Kiss Goodnight he pretty much disappeared from the scene. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was his reintroduction to the movies but in effect only made a mark with the film buffs who appreciated his way with a Raymond Chandler plotline.
Casting two slightly past their prime stars in the lead roles could have been risky, but both Downey Jr and Val Kilmer acquit themselves admirably here, seizing every chance to get a laugh out of the smart dialogue. Kilmer plays "Gay Perry", who as his name suggests is a homosexual, but as his name doesn't suggest is also a private detective who has been hired to take Harry along with him on a case so as to give him experience for the film he is going to be in. Perry sees right away that Harry is a loser, but he's being paid for his goodwill so doesn't protest too much. At first.
There's another main character and she is Harmony (Bridget Monaghan), an aspiring actress whose claim to fame is a seriously idiotic beer commercial and who Harry, we discover in tortuously-told flashback, was in love with during high school but, of course, he never got anywhere with her. She and Harry are fans of pulp thriller paperbacks which, he observes in a self-referential touch, usually have two apparently unconnected plotlines that converge and so it is here - it's as if Harry knows exactly what kind of narrative he has grown involved with and that knowing, wisecracking tone never lets up through the whole film.
Although Harry and Harmony meet at the party, he ends up sleeping with her best friend instead of her, much to Harmony's chagrin. But he still has his research to take care of, and accompanies Perry on an excursion to film a couple in an out of the way cabin in the hills. This ends up with them witnessing a car dumped in a lake from which Perry rescues a dead body of a young woman. She has been murdered, the first of the movie's many corpses, and her death leads the unlikely duo into increasingly complex schemes. Black delights in subversion of clichés, so Perry treats Harry to a passionate kiss to deflect the attentions of the police, and Harry has his finger accidentally cut off and subsequently eaten by a dog. But Kiss Kiss Bang Bang actually sticks fairly closely to genre conventions, and its meandering story threatens to sink into a vague ramble. Any attempts at real emotion fall prey to the general cynicism, but overall it entertains with its welcome wit and thrills even if it's hardly worth following. Music by John Ottman.