Sometimes when I can't figure out why a movie didn't to better at the box office, I ask Judy. When I asked about Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, she said, "How many people do you think there are who know what the old Mike Shayne paperbacks looked like or even care?" See, the movie is based (in part) on a Shayne novel called Bodies are Where you Find Them, and one of the characters reads books about a p.i. named Johnny Gossamer, whose novels even had great McGinnis covers. I love stuff like that. So does James Reasoner.
But that's certainly not all the movie has going for it. Consider, for one thing, the great retro opening title sequence.
The plot is convoluted, but I followed it pretty well. (Just one minor quibble, I think.) Anyway, a convoluted plot is exactly what's called for in a movie where each section is introduced with the title lifted from Raymond Chandler, a master of convolution. The characters are great, and the cast does them justice. Robert Downey, Jr., is scruffy (and self-referential), Val Kilmer does one of his patented movie-stealing turns as the private-eye called Gay Perry, and Michelle Monaghan is as tough and spunky as you could ask for, reminding me a little of Geena Davis in The Long Kiss Goodnight (this is high praise from me, in case you're wondering). There's plenty of humor and snappy dialogue, along with a lot of action. Two thumbs way up.