Lionsgate // 1994 // 110 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // July 6th, 2010
One thing stands between Jimmy and stardom. Reality.
Joe Pesci is an interesting case as far as movie stars go. Best known for his supporting turns in Scorsese films like Raging Bull, Goodfellas and Casino and, to a lesser extent, in the Lethal Weapon and Home Alone franchises, Pesci became such a beloved character actor in the early '90s that he was able to make the leap to the lead for a few films. The results bore films like The Super and, of course, Jimmy Hollywood (though one movie he made during this time, 1992's The Public Eye, is kind of great), proving that either a) America may have loved Pesci in character roles, but wasn't willing to watch him carry his own vehicle or b) Joe Pesci did not pick the right projects in his play for leading man status. His work in Jimmy Hollywood is characteristically strong, but it's essentially the same performance we've seen Pesci give over and over again: fast-talking, weaselly and a bit on the pathetic side. Throw a blonde Kato Kaelin wig on him and -- ta da! -- he's Jimmy Hollywood.
The movie, a would-be show business satire from 1994, is a typical Barry Levinson mess, mixing comedy and drama uneasily and shoehorning in some heavy-handed messaging for a movie that ambitiously tries to do a lot of things but succeeds at very few of them (in other words, almost every Levinson movie since Diner). Pesci stars as Jimmy Alto, an out-of-work loser living in Hollywood and dreaming of being the next Marlon Brando. His best friend, a sweet, loyal slow-witted and possibly brain-damaged man named William (Christian Slater, Julian Po), follows him around like a puppy dog and supports his dream; his long-suffering girlfriend, Lorraine (Victoria Abril, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!), not so much. After a run-in with a thug one night, Jimmy decides to videotape himself confronting a criminal while pretending to be a vigilante named "Jericho." Before long, he becomes a cult hero to the people of Los Angeles, who cheer him on for taking the law into his own hands.
In some ways, Jimmy Hollywood is ahead of its time, predating the days of self-made celebrity and reality television's population of frustrated, would-be actors willing to do pretty much anything for fame. But, since it's written and directed by Barry Levinson, it fires in every possible direction and misses pretty much all of its marks. Though the movie appears to have satire on its mind, it's never exactly clear what Levinson thinks he's satirizing. There's some commentary about the bottom-dwellers that wait the tables and surround the swimming pools all over Hollywood, but that's pretty low-hanging fruit. Pesci does his best to make Jimmy into a real, sympathetic person, but his efforts are constantly undercut by a screenplay that wants us to have affection for him only until it's time to make us laugh at him again. I suspect that Jimmy Hollywood would work a lot better if it were just a movie about a struggling actor and just jettisoned the whole vigilante angle (which, by the way, once again reaffirms my theory that anytime a movie features something that becomes a "media frenzy," you're not watching something good anymore), which never comes together in a satisfying way. Well, it almost does during the movie's climax, but once again Levinson shoots himself in the foot.
The Blu-ray of Jimmy Hollywood, being issued by Lionsgate (though originally a Paramount title) is a bit disappointing, even for a catalogue release like this. The AVC/MPEG-4 encoded image is presented in a 1.78:1 widescreen transfer and is a little all over the place: one shot is cleaned-up and noise-free, while the next one is covered in grain and the one after that is softer than its standard DVD counterpart. Overall, this is likely the best that Jimmy Hollywood has ever looked, but that's not saying much. This is a hugely uneven transfer that is in no way up to the standards of other Blu-ray releases. The DTS-HD audio track does a fine job of handling what the film asks of it, but it's really just a dialogue-driven mix that rarely even touches the rear channels. There are no extras included on the disc -- not even the movie's original trailer.
I can't really think of reason to recommend this Blu-ray of Jimmy Hollywood. The movie doesn't work, and while I'm sure it has its fans, they likely won't be satisfied by Lionsgate's disappointing transfer and total lack of special features. Take a pass on this one.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
Running Time: 110 Minutes
Release Year: 1994
MPAA Rating: Rated R