Shot in Los Angeles between February 24 and May 3, 2004, the film debuted at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival on May 14, and received a limited release in cinemas on October 21, 2005.
At a Los Angeles party, Harry Lockhart recounts recent events. Fleeing a botched burglary, Harry's friend is shot, forcing Harry to evade police by ducking into an audition. Harry unintentionally impresses the producers with an outburst of remorse they mistake for method acting. At a Hollywood party before a screen test, Harry meets private investigator Perry van Shrike, hired to give Harry on-the-job experience for his role, and party host Harlan Dexter, a retired actor who recently resolved a ten-year feud over his wife's inheritance with his daughter, Veronica. He also encounters his childhood crush Harmony Lane but wakes up in bed with her hostile friend. He runs over to Harmony's place at 6 a.m. to apologize.
Perry and Harry witness a vehicle being dumped in a lake and are spotted by the apparent killers. Perry shoots the trunk lock in a rescue attempt but accidentally hits the female corpse inside as well. They cannot report the body because it appears Perry killed her.
Harmony contacts Harry, explaining that her sister Jenna came to Los Angeles, stole Harmony's credit cards, and later killed herself. Believing Harry is a detective, Harmony asks him to investigate Jenna's death as a murder. After she leaves, Harry discovers the lake corpse in his bathroom and a planted pistol. Harry and Perry dump the corpse, later identified as Veronica Dexter by police. Harry discovers it was Harmony's credit card that was used to hire Perry to come to the lake, tying Jenna to their case. He goes to see Harmony, who (accidentally) slams the door on his finger, cutting it off, and she takes him to the hospital.
They go to a party, but Harry is abducted, beaten, threatened, and ordered to cease the investigation by the killers from the lake and then let go. While taking Harry back to the hospital, Harmony sees the killers heading to Perry's stakeout. Realizing that Perry is heading into a trap, she leaves Harry in her car and rushes off to the stakeout, where she saves Perry, and one of the killers gets shot to death by a food-cart operator. A pink-haired girl, affiliated with the killers, steals Harmony's car and unwittingly drives an unconscious Harry to her safe house. The remaining lake killer arrives and shoots her; Harry recovers the pistol and shoots the killer. His finger has fallen off again, so he puts it on ice, but a dog jumps up and eats it. Harmony meets Harry at his hotel where she reveals she had told Jenna that Harlan Dexter was her real father. They quarrel in bed, when Harmony reveals she had previously slept with Harry's best friend, and he throws her out, being careful not to slam her fingers in the door.
After Harmony disappears following a lead, Harry and Perry investigate a private health clinic owned by Harlan Dexter. Perry realizes Veronica Dexter was incarcerated there by Harlan so an impostor could drop her court case. The pair capture a guard to question him but accidentally kill him and then are captured by Dexter. He reveals he now plans to cremate his daughter's corpse to remove any remaining evidence. Harry calls Harmony, who had not actually disappeared but had simply gone to work. Harmony steals the van containing the coffin. Harry and Perry escape, but Harmony crashes the van. Perry is incapacitated in the ensuing shootout; Harry manages to kill Dexter and his thugs but is also shot.
Waking in a hospital, Harry finds that Perry and Harmony are fine. Perry reveals Harmony's sister was not murdered but committed suicide. Jenna had escaped her sexually abusive father in Indiana and located Dexter, believing him to be her real father. She accidentally witnessed Dexter having sex with Veronica's impostor, the pink-haired girl. Believing this father was also incestuous, Jenna commissioned Perry and committed suicide.
Perry travels back to Harmony's hometown and confronts Jenna's father, who is now bed-ridden, slapping him multiple times and calling him an animal. When the old man berates Perry for attacking a helpless old man, Perry says simply, "Yeah. Big tough guy," and leaves.
Having lost the movie role to Colin Farrell, Harry gets a job working for Perry.Robert Downey, Jr. as Harry Lockhart
Indio Falconer Downey as 9-year-old Harry
Richard Alan Brown as 16-year-old Harry
Val Kilmer as "Gay" Perry van Shrike
Michelle Monaghan as Harmony Faith Lane
Ariel Winter as 7-year-old Harmony
Stephanie Pearson as 14-year-old Harmony
Corbin Bernsen as Harlan Dexter
Rockmond Dunbar as Mustard
Dash Mihok as Mr. Frying Pan
Shannyn Sossamon as Mia Frye
Angela Lindvall as Flicka
Ali Hillis as Marleah
Larry Miller as Dabney Shaw
Following the bad critical reception of The Long Kiss Goodnight and a rejection letter from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Shane Black decided he would attempt something out of the action genre. Following the example of James L. Brooks, Black attempted to make a romantic comedy, "a quirky story of two kids in L.A." Brooks liked Black's first draft, but felt his later attempts were losing focus. Trying to salvage what he had liked, Brooks suggested Black to imagine Jack Nicholson from As Good As It Gets playing Nicholson's role from Chinatown. This led Black to add action elements - "I said, you know, 'Fuck it. I have to put a murder in it.'" - and rework the screenplay, adding the character of detective "Gay" Perry, who Black said was an attempt to break stereotypes, as he had never seen "the gay guy who kicks down the door, shoots everyone and bails your ass out before." Old detective novels were a major influence, with Black saying he tried to re-invent the genre "using realistic characters, in a modern setting but with the spirit of 1950s and 1960s". The crime plot drew from Brett Halliday's Bodies Are Where You Find Them, and Black homaged Raymond Chandler by splitting the film into chapters named after Chandler's books.
The script, then titled You’ll Never Die in This Town Again, was rejected by various studios before Joel Silver, who gave Black his first break producing Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout, decided to help him. The leading role of the now retitled L.A.P.I. had been considered for Benicio del Toro, Hugh Grant and Johnny Knoxville. Robert Downey Jr. learned about the film from his then-girlfriend Susan Levin, who worked as Silver's assistant, and as he finished working with Silver in Gothika, the producer and Black brought him in to audition. Downey was eventually cast as they liked his readings and knew he could fit into the small $15 million budget, as his career had been in a downfall following his time in prison. Levin also suggested to bring in Val Kilmer, who coincidentally had been long interested in making a comedy.
Before principal photography begun, the title became Kiss Kiss Bang Bang because Black felt it was a "blunt and austere title" that described how the plot was "half romantic comedy and half murder mystery." To achieve a neo-noir look, Black screened 1960s films of the genre to cinematographer Michael Barrett and production designer Aaron Osborne, such as Harper and Point Blank. Osborne in particular drew inspiration from the detective book covers by illustrator Robert McGuinness, who was also brought in to draw the covers for the fictional Johnny Gossamer novels that appear in the film. The Hollywood party that opens the film was filmed in Black's own Los Angeles mansion.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was screened out of competition at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival. The film's premiere happened at the Chinese Theatre on October 17, as the opener of the Hollywood Film Festival. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was released on DVD June 13, 2006.
The film opened on October 21 in the United States, with a limited release. From its release until mid-November, the film's distribution increased every weekend due to its favorable critical reviews. It stayed in release in the United States until early January. The film earned a total of $4,243,756 in the United States. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang grossed far more outside the United States, accounting for just over 70% of the film's worldwide gross, accumulating $11,541,392. The film ended up earning $15,785,148 worldwide, earning back its budget. Downey was disappointed at the low box office intake, but said Kiss Kiss Bang Bang "ended up being my calling card to Iron Man," as his performance attracted director Jon Favreau. That film marked Downey's career resurrection, and Black would even be brought in to co-write and direct the sequel Iron Man 3.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang received positive reviews from critics, with many admiring the film for its sharp and clever comedy, as well as Downey's and Kilmer's screen chemistry and individual performances. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 85%, based on 171 reviews, with an average rating of 7.5/10. The critical consensus reads, "Tongue-in-cheek satire blends well with entertaining action and spot-on performances in this dark, eclectic neo-noir homage." On Metacritic, the film has a score 72 out of 100, based on 37 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Mike Russell of The Oregonian observed that "This is one of Downey's most enjoyable performances, and one of Kilmer's funniest. It's a relationship comedy wrapped in sharp talk and gunplay, a triumphant comeback for Black, and one of the year's best movies". Jeff Otto, an IGN critic, wrote that "It takes a bunch of genres and twists them into a blender, a pop relic that still feels current...one of the best times I've had at the movies this year." It was voted "Overlooked Film of the Year" by the 2005 Phoenix Film Critics Society on December 20, 2005.
Roger Ebert's review of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was a mixed 2.5 out of 4 stars. He wrote that the film "contains a lot of comedy and invention, but doesn't much benefit from its clever style. The characters and plot are so promising that maybe Black should have backed off and told the story deadpan, instead of mugging so shamelessly for laughs."
The soundtrack to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was released on October 18, 2005.