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Featured Blu-ray Review: Jimmy Hollywood

June 27th, 2010

Jimmy Hollywood - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

There was a time when Joe Pesci and Christian Slater were both big names in Hollywood. The same can be said for writer / director Barry Levinson. Since Jimmy Hollywood had all three working on it, it probably seemed like a sure thing. I don't actually remember if it did seem like a good idea at the time; in fact, I don't remember anything about this movie's original theatrical run, except that it flopped. So now that I get to see it more than 15 years after its original release, I'll be able to tell if it was under-appreciated, or rightfully ignored.

Joe Pesci is Jimmy Alto, an aging wannabe actor, middle-aged and still without his big break in sight (I guess memorizing the names on the Walk of Fame wasn't enough). He spends his time with William, his slow and easy going friend, and Lorraine de la Peña, his patient and supportive girlfriend. One night she is mugged at the ATM machine, but fortunately the robber was unable to get any money. Unfortunately, that's because Jimmy already stole from her to buy advertising on a park bench.

After he becomes the victim of crime (someone stole his car radio) the cops don't take it as seriously as he does. So he decides to do the logical thing and become a video vigilante. ... Actually, that is almost a logical thing to do. Instead of secretly filming the crimes and handing the tapes over to the police, he makes citizens arrests, armed with a gun loaded with blanks, which is a much riskier move. However, it pays off in the short run and not only is he able to catch a crock or two, he's suddenly a media sensation. Of course, while Jimmy likes the idea of being famous, the police aren't too happy with his actions and the criminals he targets are even less pleased.

Essentially you have a movie that is about the decay of Hollywood, which has more than it's fair share homeless and street crime. It is also about people who keep chasing the dream long after they should have surrendered to reality. And finally, it is about the media and how they over-sensationalize whatever story is the flavor of the month. These are all intriguing ideas and any one of them could have been turned into a good movie. Hell, all three of them could be combined and turned into a good movie. However, this is not that movie.

Problems start right at the top, right with the script, specifically with the three main characters. Jimmy is an obnoxious, self-centered, egotistical, delusional, jerk. He is supposed to be the everyman fighting to hold onto the impossible dream, but he's clearly a talentless hack who refuses to face reality and get a real job. I find it impossible to sympathize with him. Worse still, he's also uninteresting. Jimmy is a character Joe Pesci has played before, or if not exactly the same character, he's certainly related to them. William is hardly any better, as he's nothing more than a quirk, and an uninteresting one at that. (He has a faulty memory due to an accident.) It doesn't help that Christian Slater seems to be sleepwalking through the role, but I'm not sure if he's to blame, or if this is the fault of Barry Levinson, who wrote and directed the movie. Victoria Abril comes out of the film the best, because while her character is underwritten, at least she's sympathetic.

The film is social satire that lacks the two key ingredients to succeed. It doesn't have a tight enough focus on its target, nor does it have sharp enough humor to cut if it did land a strike.

As for the Blu-ray, there are no extras to be found while the video and audio presentation are below average. The level of grain is high while the colors are weak. The audio is a little better with solid clarity, but there's no real dynamic presence.

The Verdict

Jimmy Hollywood was made in 1994 for a reported $20 million, which was not a small budget, especially for this type of film. However, it failed to connect with critics and bombed at the box office. Frankly, I'm a little surprised it is coming out on Blu-ray so soon. That said, I'm not surprised the Blu-ray is total shovelware with zero extras and a weak transfer.

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