Film review: Jimmy Hollywood

Published: Saturday, April 2 1994 12:00 a.m. MST

After "Toys," writer-director Barry Levinson continues his decline with "Jimmy Hollywood," a woefully unfunny, insider Hollywood yarn that allows Joe Pesci to yammer obnoxiously for two hours. If you're not a Pesci fan, beware.

In better days, Levinson gave us such first-rate film fare as "Rain Man," "Avalon," "Good Morning, Vietnam" and "Diner." But "Jimmy Hollywood" is ridiculously self-indulgent and, in places, downright annoying.

It's also not very original, as the plot combines Martin Scorsese's "The King of Comedy" with "Death Wish." Pesci is a movie buff and failed actor, actually named Jimmy Alto, who is so desperate for recognition that he buys ad space on a bus bench and plasters his face and phone number on it.

The plot kicks into gear after his girlfriend (the very charming Victoria Abril) is robbed at gunpoint at an outdoor teller machine and then his own car window is smashed and his radio stolen. Fed up with all the crime that has spoiled his "dream factory" image of Hollywood and finding the police to be ineffectual, he decides to take matters into his own hands.

Along with a dull-witted pal, played in a low-key, humorous fashion by Christian Slater, Pesci decides to catch local thieves and drug dealers in the act, videotaping their crimes, physically capturing them and then dropping them on the doorstep of local police. Right.

Soon, these vigilante actions take on mammoth media proportions as the police begin to think these two guys are actually an army. The public backs them up, but the police try to hunt them down.

Seizing the opportunity, Pesci takes on an alter ego, hiding his identity as he makes speeches on videotapes and gives them to a local television station. The joke, of course, is that Pesci can't get a legitimate acting role, so this is his big break. And his motives are less than altruistic — he cares less about rampant crime than about getting his 15 minutes of fame.

"Jimmy Hollywood" does have a few chuckles here and there, but mostly the film seems off in terms of timing. Far too many jokes fall flat, and the pacing is so low-key, it's nearly asleep. The latter aspect is especially odd since Pesci is so pumped up, his temper flaring as he makes wisecracks and lengthy speeches, the latter seeming like a nonstop, meandering monologue. After awhile, I just wanted him to go away.

There is a funny, unexpected star cameo at the end of the film, but by then it's too little too late. And that ending is right out of "The King of Comedy."

"Jimmy Hollywood" is rated R for violence and considerable profanity.