Ah, the dreamy 90s, when independent film finally bled into the mainstream and a former porn-theater-usher-slash-video-store-clerk exploded on the scene with a brutal verbose crime film. How we got there has been detailed in all its intricacy by career journalist Peter Biskind in his two must-read books Easy Riders, Raging Bulls and Down and Dirty Pictures. Would Biskind agree with this writer in condemning Sam Henry Kass' The Search for One-Eye Jimmy as an irritable slice-of-Brooklyn-life ham sandwich that landed an outstanding ensemble cast and proceeded to waste their considerable talents? This is a film that skates bare on charm alone, and frequently even that is not enough.
In resurrecting Kass' debut feature, Kino Lorber smartly chose to highlight the cast, despite the fact that several members appear for, at most, five minutes, if not less. The morsel of a plot can be described in a sentence or two: Les (Holt McCallany, who is oddly excluded from the front cover credits), fresh out of film school, returns to his old neighborhood to make, erm, something. Instead he gets caught in the local search for One Eye Jimmy, a no-good layabout with a glass eye.
Along for the ride are Red Hook's local neighborhood weirdoes: Joe Head (Michael Badalucco, earnestly awkward) and habitual thief Junior (an intensely irritating Nicholas Turturro, attempting to make up for lack of characterization with an overdose of eccentricity). Les turns his camera on them for a brief time before Kass loses interest in Les' would-be film and focuses instead on tracking the on-and-off search for Jimmy and the other unique individuals who get involved, including Ed (Steve Buscemi), Jimmy's brother, crazed veteran Col. Ron (Samuel L. Jackson), Disco Stu-by-way-of-Red-Hook Disco Bean (John Turturro) and local mob shark Snake (Tony Sirico).
Much of The Search for One-Eye Jimmy involves stupendously poorly-thought-out plans that no one objects to - effectively, we watching a team of Kramers step on landmines again and again, undermining their own success. The DVD summary mentions Kass was brought on as a Seinfeild consultant way back when - this makes sense and much of the humor in the film comes from a sense that the group is taking their attempts seriously. When fights break out, as they inevitably do, the opponents trade barbs and then reconcile almost immediately, expressing the kind of Brooklyn-borne kinship that the film desperately needs for.
Instead Les and co. trek from odd man to odd man, to fortuneteller woman and finally to a party that ends with an anti-climax of epic proportions. How could we care for a Jimmy that we never met? The film asks us to and then trots out the eccentrics and asks us to love them for their local "charm" and disproportionate egos. No thanks.
Little work has been to clean up the 1.85:1 Widescreen transfer, and it shows. A grainy print that is soft in the extreme awaits you, with dirt galore and a washed out look that makes nighttime scenes a fine mess.
A 2.0 stereo mix is about what you'd expect, the sounds of Brooklyn on a budget. Dialogue is clean, but don't expect much besides minor clarity.
A gallery of stills and a couple of trailer for other Kino Lorber releases.
The Search for One-Eye Jimmy is a forgettable trek through a Red Hook that no longer is. The cast is the singular selling point, although you are likely to recall a better film you might've seen that particular thespian in as you slog through this one. A cautious Rent It.
The best of the five boroughs is now represented. Brooklyn in the house! I'm a hardworking film writer, blogger, boyfriend and hopeful Corgi owner. Find me on Twitter @markzhur and on Tumblr at Our Elaborate Plans...