Jimmy Alto is an actor wannabe who stumbles into the role of a lifetime. He becomes a vigilante crime-fighter, aided by his sidekick William, who has suffered a head wound and has problems with short-term memory. Jimmy's vigilante alter ego soon becomes a media wonder--but Jimmy remains a total unknown and his long-suffering girl friend Lorraine is getting fed up with the whole situation.
Hollywood lore decrees any director (Levinson, for instance) who follows an expensive also-ran (think Bugsy) with a high-profile flop (say, Toys) and a personal picture that can only scrape a direct-to-video release outside America (e.g. Jimmy Hollywood) had better latch onto a sure-fire hit for his next film (namely the upcoming Disclosure). Just as Levinson’s stock is about to rise from the inevitable smash of the Disclosure money machine, this MIA effort creeps out to please the completists and mildly irritate anyone else who happens to rent it.
This is the sort of subject that ought to be a low-budget picture with an unknown cast and a street level attitude. As made by an out-of-form A-list director and recognisable actors, it’s too hectoring and obvious to get away with it. Pesci, with a mop that goes beyond even his JFK rug, is hustler Jimmy Alto who has come to Hollywood to make it as an actor. He’s drawing sackloads of rejections and hanging around with confused street kid William (Slater) when the theft of his car radio sends him on a vigilante spree. Suddenly, as videos of his anti-crime announcements get airplay, he becomes the celebrity he has always wanted to be, albeit in the invented character of “Jericho”.
The American obsession with celebrity and crime is starting to feel like old-hat and Jimmy Hollywood has the misfortune to arrive in the same season as a batch of much hipper movies (Natural Born Killers and S.F.W. included) with the same idea. Pesci rants to his usual standard, though Levinson makes him beg for sympathy in a way Scorsese would scorn, while Slater underplays bewilderingly in the stooge role.
In the end, this fails because it’s hard to think of anyone as a loser if his girlfriend is played by Victoria Abril, just as it’s hard to be moved by the pathetic whinings of a nobody who keeps promising to thank people in his Oscar acceptance speech when said nobody is played by an actual Academy Award winner.