Sunday, February 22, 2015

Hollywood Man (1976)

          The basic narrative gimmick underlying Hollywood Man is terrific—a desperate filmmaker turns to the Mob for financing, only to have mobsters deliberately undermine his production because they want him to default so they own his entire life instead of just one movie. In fact, a similar concept appeared, probably by sheer coincidence, in Elmore Leonard’s 1990 novel Get Shorty, which became the delightful 1995 comedy film of the same name. Anyway, Hollywood Man loses its way very quickly because the filmmakers get sidetracked with a boring subplot about friction between the enforcers hired by the mob to bedevil the indebted director. Moreover, characterization is not a strong suit in Hollywood Man, so even with charismatic B-movie titan William Smith playing the main role, it’s hard to get engrossed in what should be the story’s primary emotional journey. That said, the movie has some mildly entertaining high points, it moves along fairly well, and costar Don Stroud has a blast playing an arrogant stuntman.
          The picture starts in Hollywood, naturally, where actor/director Rafe Stoker (Smith) has invested $125,000 of his own money into a new biker movie, even though the genre—which made him a star—has mostly gone out of fashion. (There’s an element of autobiography here, since Smith, who cowrote and produced Hollywood Man, came up through biker movies.) The mogul who financed most of Rafe’s previous flicks refuses to give the director end money, instead referring Rafe to a mobster with deep pockets. Fully aware of the attendant dangers but desperate to complete his opus, Rafe offers his profit participation in other movies as collateral, thus motivating his benefactor to sabotage principal photography.
          Unfortunately, the makers of Hollywood Man, including veteran B-movie director Jack Starrett, lose focus once they introduce Harvey (Ray Giardin), an unhinged thug leading a team of brutal killers. In fact, the picture’s most dynamic scene—an epic slow-motion scene of Harvey slaughtering people on a beach with a machine gunhas very little impact on the main story. More relevant are fun behind-the-scenes bits, such as the vignette of Rafe debating with a stuntman over whether a shot of a bike jump is useable since the stuntman’s fake moustache came off partway through the gag. Hollywood Man isn’t a total loss, but it represents yet another missed opportunity to channel Smith’s animalistic intensity into a storyline as muscular as the actor himself.

Hollywood Man: FUNKY

1 comment:

PA Puzzler said...

I love that this review was posted on the day of the 2015 Academy Award ceremony. Thank you for the perspective!