If imitation truly is the sincerest form of flattery, then young filmmakers continue to flatter co-screenwriter/director Shane Black and his 2005 hit Kiss Kiss Bang Bang in the most sincere way possible.

That aforementioned film not only rehabilitated its star, Robert Downey Jr., turning him into a fast-talking, hipsterish hero figure for the 21st century, it also spawned its share of like-minded crime comedies – much in the way that Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction inspired its own mini-movement of inferior knock-offs a decade earlier.

The latest but not the last of these of these “Kiss Bangers,” for lack of a better term, is Mike Case in: The Big Kiss Off, a cheeky comedy-thriller that attempts to duplicate that film’s mix of thrills, laughs and plot twists with decidedly mixed results.

To be fair, it’s a much more modestly budgeted production, with no really recognizable names in its cast, so it’s hard for this particular movie to live up to the standards of its obvious inspiration. And at least when it fails in that regard, it tries in a way that makes you appreciate its efforts, if not like it a little more than you probably should.

The film’s co-screenwriter, Les Mahoney, stars as the title character, a bargain basement private investigator and would-be ladies man who’s been hired to find Lennie Billows (Scott Ganyo), the missing husband of Victoria Billows (Devai Pearce).

It seems like a simple enough case, but there’s more than one P.I. who’s looking into Lennie’s disappearance. Mike soon finds his former professional partner, Det. Lorena Dietrichson (Debra Mayer), snooping around the same places and asking questions, and, like him, she’s hitting up against one dead end after another.

Luckily, Mike does get help from his longtime informant, Bootsie (Atoy Wilson), who keeps him one step ahead of his rivals – though even he can’t warn Mike of a few looming dangers.

The smart alecky narration is nowhere near as sharp as it needs to be. And Mahoney and his co-screenwriter, Sherman Hirsh, can’t really craft a compelling mystery. However, a couple of the one-liners do hit the mark (though not often enough), and director Justin Baird is smart enough to get out of the way of his actors.

This really is a showcase for Mahoney, a veteran bit player who proves to have some rough charm, though positing him as a ladies man is a bit of a stretch.

Also of note: Several character names reference earlier crime-noir movie and novel classics, and you have to appreciate the fact that the filmmakers give shout-outs to influential noir authors and actors Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Fred MacMurray, Edward G. Robinson and Mickey Spillane in the credits. It at least shows they have an appreciation for the classics.

Jeff Michael Vice can also be heard reviewing films, television programs, comics, books, music and other things as part of The Geek Show Podcast (www.thegeekshowpodcast.com), and can be seen reviewing films as part of Xfinity’s Big Movie Mouth-Off (www.facebook.com/BigMovieMouthOff).