Jimmy Hollywood (United States, 1994)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Barry Levinson had an idea, and a pretty good one at that: take an actor, have him assume the role of a vigilante, and, as public adulation of his assumed personae escalates, blur the line between being a vigilante and acting the part. Unfortunately, the idea is all that Levinson had, because the final result -- Jimmy Hollywood -- is a somnolent mess.

Jimmy Alto (Joe Pesci) moved to Hollywood from New Jersey to try his luck in Tinseltown. Now, despite a bus stop bench add proclaiming his abilities as an actor, he's unemployed and barely eking out a living, resorting to stealing from his girlfriend Lorraine (Victoria Abril) when he needs money. Then, one night, someone breaks into Jimmy's car and steals his radio. Incensed that the police intend to do nothing about this criminal behavior, he and his friend William (Christian Slater) spend nights staking out the neighborhood, awaiting the return of the thief. When he makes another appearance, Jimmy takes matters into his own hands, giving birth to the S.O.S. ("Save Our Streets") organization and its leader, Jericho.

The problems in Jimmy Hollywood start with the characters. They either aren't very interesting (Pesci's Jimmy), aren't interesting and are annoying (Slater's William), or aren't interesting and don't have a purpose (Abril's Lorraine). The fault is not entirely that of the script, since none of the principals gives a noteworthy performance. Pesci, known for his caged energy, comes across as bland throughout. Slater and Abril successfully manage to blend into the scenery.

For a comedy, this isn't very funny. There are a few lines here and there worth a chuckle, but most of the jokes fall through, and some are difficult to recognize as attempts at humor. The dramatic elements aren't much more successful, although several intriguing ideas are proposed, such as the role of vigilantism in our society and what a media frenzy can drive a person to do. None of these are original, but they're worthy of consideration. Unfortunately, Jimmy Hollywood doesn't do that very well, either. The film's tone is uneven, with lengthy periods of sluggishness punctuated by bursts of action. The ending is dragged out at least twice as long as it needs to be.

The best part of Jimmy Hollywood, and it is very good, is the sequence over which the end credits are shown. This minute-long spoof, featuring an unexpected, uncredited cameo, is almost worth sitting through the rest of the film for. Almost, that is, but not quite. The other interest-capturing moments are few, far between, and quickly over.

Barry Levinson's work in the past has ranged from excellent (Avalon) to mediocre (Toys). Jimmy Hollywood falls into the lower portion of the latter category. In this case, let the preview be your guide to the movie -- it's an accurate representation of something that's flat, uninspired, and desperately trying, and failing, to be witty and clever.

Jimmy Hollywood (United States, 1994)

Director: Barry Levinson
Cast: Joe Pesci, Christian Slater, Victoria Abril
Screenplay: Barry Levinson
Cinematography: Peter Sova
Music: Robbie Robertson
U.S. Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Run Time: 1:50
U.S. Release Date: 1994-03-30
MPAA Rating: "R" (Profanity, Violence, Sexual Situations)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1