I can't help but root for Barry Levinson because, as a fellow Baltimore native we can't help but root for our own. He's been responsible for some outstanding work and has helped stimulate the Baltimore film community; two of the best shows to air in the last two decades (The Wire and Homicide: Life on the Street) have had Charm City as its backdrop. While he's got his hits, he's also got some misses, and boy is Jimmy Hollywood the definition of that.
Written and directed by Levinson, the title character is played by Joe Pesci (Goodfellas), whose real name is Jimmy Alto. Jimmy is your prototypical starving actor in Hollywood, if your starving actor is 50 years old with a hideous blonde wig. Jimmy has a slow-witted friend in William (Christian Slater, Windtalkers) and girlfriend in Lorraine (Victoria Abril, Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down). Both Jimmy and Lorraine are supportive of Jimmy's efforts for fame, even if it means taking out money from the latter's checking account to put his name and phone number on a bus station bench for more roles.
Jimmy's attempts to secure more roles become increasingly futile. This is frustrating because Jimmy has a great fondness for the Hollywood of yesterday, of the Selznick productions and the more glamorous life that those stars must have led. However he doesn't seem to fit the bill that studio producers are looking for, and the fact that he's become disenchanted with the criminal element in the city, emboldens him to don the cloak of anonymity and dub himself "Jimmy Hollywood." Jimmy doesn't really get into dirty Harry-type vigilante, but rather tapes the criminal's actions and passes them along to the police for enforcement. The police become more preoccupied with this unknown man, and the hunt to reveal Jimmy earns him more fame and publicity than acting ever did.
It seems like a nice enough story from the intentions perspective, but there's a lot of self-indulgence within the story's execution that drags its pacing down to the point of being predictable and unendurable. There is a lot of inaction in the film. The "go-to" scene is of Jimmy and William, together at the pool of Jimmy's apartment, sunning themselves while Jimmy periodically wonders if his phone is ringing. I understand the film is driving home the point that Jimmy still remains optimistic about the next call, but jeez, move along already.
it doesn't help that Pesci is left doing all the work in the film. Slater plays Pesci's best friend, but William is a guy who appears confused and slow to respond, and rarely gets moments to show the viewer his own feelings or emotions. He's window dressing, much the same way that Abril's Lorraine is. Lorraine puts up with Jimmy's behavior but gradually gets tired of it the further into the surreal it seems to go, but comes back to him in the end in a desperate attempt to get the protagonist and his love interest back together. Problem is, you've tuned out by then.
It's sad, because in Wag the Dog and What Just Happened, you have jokes that are funny, characters and storylines that are entertaining, and even if you're not privy to the world, you feel like an entertainment insider of sorts when watching those other Levinson films. But unlike those films, Levinson wrote Jimmy Hollywood, and the result is a disappointing mess, years after its 1994 release.
The Blu-ray Disc:
Jimmy Hollywood is presented in an AVC encoded 1.78:1 widescreen format. That's not the surprise here, the surprise is this "is a home entertainment version of this film. Some footage has been added and some deleted from the theatrical version." Putting aside the stranger question of why the film was edited for video release (or the even stranger thought of who would want the original film on Blu-ray), the disc has moments of clarity and detail, and the film grain is present too. But in other longer moments there are instances of edge enhancement and post-production work that distract from an already bad film.
The DTS-HD Master Audio track at least tries to do work. You hear ambient noises in exterior scenes of bugs, or a voice or car horn here and there designed to let you know that the rear channels are being used and that there really are directional effects in the soundtrack. Gunshots (both real and simulated) are replicated with solid accuracy and ring out through the soundstage. Dialogue, however, is a mixed bag, not balanced or consistently strong and (assuming you watch this on BD) requires a lot of compensation. Nice intent, but hardly anything special.
Jimmy Hollywood isn't more than a weird attempt at coming Altman's The Player with well, Blankman and hoping that it sticks. But you're wound up asking the same question my wife did when she glanced over at me watching this: "Why is THIS on Blu-ray?" Don't waste your time with it.