Home Video Hovel- The Search for One-Eye Jimmy
The 1990s saw the rise of a lot of great independent filmmakers; Sam Henry Kass is not among them and watching The Search For One-Eye Jimmy will show you why. What might have made for an entertaining short film is instead a sporadically chuckle-inducing shaggy-dog story that wears out its welcome long before the credits roll. Despite a large cast of respected acting talent that came up through the ranks of indie film to become famous names today — including possibly every Turturro known to man — The Search For One-Eye Jimmy pretty much wastes said talent on goofy situations and sub-par sitcom-level writing.
Les (Holt McCallany) is an aspiring filmmaker who has left his L.A. film school and returned to his old Brooklyn stomping grounds to shoot a slice-of-life documentary. Once there, he’s instantly enmeshed in a hunt for the missing Jimmy Hoyt, whose family (including Anne Meara as Jimmy’s mother and Steve Buscemi as one of his brothers) has no idea where he’s been for the past several days. Les smells a great documentary, so he keeps his unnamed cameraman (whom I shall call Silent Bob for the purposes of this review) rolling at all times as they encounter a series of allegedly colorful and wacky denizens of the Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook. This parade of quirk includes Nick Turturro as Junior, a fast-talking hustler who can’t stop stealing cars; John Turturro as Disco Bean, a dancing fool whose sole purpose seems to be relating the sordid tale of how Jimmy lost his eye since Bean completely disappears from the picture afterward; Samuel L. Jackson as Colonel Ron, a similar narrative dead end; and a pre-Sopranos Tony Sirico as a local loan shark who was once called The Whale but has lost a great deal of weight and now quite sensibly wants to be called The Snake. Except for Junior, none of these characters are fully integrated into the story; the episodic ramble suggests that writer/director Kass knew a bunch of people and just figured out a way to throw them into his movie in the hopes that a plethora of colorful, one-note cliches would somehow convince an audience that they were watching a budding new Coen brother. The one actor who managed to stay on my good side was Michael Badalucco as Joe Head, an endearing dope who becomes Les’ sidekick; Badalucco, who later won an Emmy for his wonderful work on the TV series The Practice, has a slow-witted charm that, despite being a New York caricature, is at least fun to watch.
Yes indeed, it’s a slew of performers you know and love on display — look, it’s Jennifer Beals! It’s Sam Rockwell! It’s Aida Turturro! (Seriously, how many of them are there?) It’s Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini! — but apart from something to put on their audition reels, their efforts are largely unrewarded. Had the film been chopped down to, say, half an hour, it would probably have gotten more laughs and been a whole lot less dull. If Kass had even made a straight faux-documentary and kept Les and Silent Bob off-camera completely, the results would have been better, particularly since Holt McCallany has nothing interesting to do onscreen — he’s stuck saying “That was great” when somebody does something great, or repeating questions asked of him, like “What am I gonna do now,” which is screenwriting death. On the other hand, the onscreen presence of cameraman Silent Bob is kind of fascinating, as the character is played — and his camera operated — by indie filmmaker Lodge Kerrigan, who made his directing debut, 1993’s Clean, Shaven, around the same time that One-Eye Jimmy was made (although Kass’ film wouldn’t find distribution for another three years, by which time several of the actors had become considerably more well-known). Kerrigan is largely silent throughout the story (Junior calls him Harpo in case we needed emphasis), which is why I started calling him Silent Bob; when he speaks his sole line late in the third act, I genuinely wondered if Kevin Smith had seen this picture at a film festival or something and been inspired to create the cult screen character that we all know and tired of. The presence of Lodge Kerrigan does not save the movie but it became the one truly weird element of a film that strove to be weird at all times and everywhere but did not succeed, sort of like if Atom Egoyan suddenly showed up in Wild Hogs.
Just looking at the roster of actors, and with the knowledge that it was made in the thick of ’90s indie filmmaking, I really had my heart set on a character-driven ensemble piece, something more along the lines of Wayne Wang’s Brooklyn double feature Smoke and Blue In The Face. Once I was disabused of that lofty notion, I hoped at the very least for funny, but The Search For One-Eye Jimmy only manages that sporadically. Like a Mad TV sketch extended to an absurd length, this film thinks it’s far more wild and zany than it really is; its only purpose now is to answer the question “What did (insert name here) do before they were famous?” Trust me — you don’t wanna know.