Philip Denver, Seth Correa, Joe Estevez, Sophia Tolentino, Sharon Wright, Cameron Haines
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
"The Death of Hollywood" Review
When a down on his luck screenwriter, Joe King (Philip Denver), has his material stolen out from under him by a sleazy yet powerful exploitation flick director named Harry Goldsman (Denver, dually cast) he takes it upon himself to kidnap the lookalike producer and, standing in for him, attempts to turn his B-movie reputation upside down.
Written and directed by veteran indie filmmaker Blake Fitzpatrick under his Monumental Pictures label, "The Death of Hollywood" is an ambitious, film noir style film with darkly comic undertones loosely based upon Fitzpatrick's own experiences within the film industry and interspersed with tips of the hat to classic film noir.
While "The Death of Hollywood" certainly struggles at times with the ever so obvious traits of an ultra-indie flick such as an even sound mix and lighting issues, Fitzpatrick rebounds the film nicely largely thanks to a strong ensemble cast led by the double casting of newcomer Philip Denver as both the shady director and the desperate screenwriter. With hints of Norman Bates intertwined with a sort of goth Michael Cera, Denver embodies his Joe King with the sort of bad boy naughtiness of Cera's Francois in his current flick, "Youth in Revolt." Of course, it helps that Denver is surrounded by a solid cast including a convincing turn by Seth Correa as Boris Mishken, a rather evil looking auto mechanic who begins to unravel King's big secret. Sophia Tolentino also makes a positive impression as Boris's daughter Natasha in what amounts to a fairly bit role, while Joe Estevez, Martin's younger brother, turns in a nice performance as well.
It's not uncommon when an ultra-indie director becomes overly ambitious for the tech issues to become more a distraction than a benefit, but Fitzpatrick does a nice job of keeping "The Death of Hollywood" serious and steady without compromising his artistic vision for the film. While the film's lighting is a bit dark at times, the film noir style actually works well for this limitation and, at times, actually enhances the atmosphere and mood. The sound issues are a touch more distracting as occasionally the sound mix is a touch uneven, but one gets the feeling these modest issues will be worked out as the film hits the film festival circuit after its debut in Kansas City, MO on December 27, 2009.
The film's original music from John Stone is a cinematic highlight and Fitzpatrick uses it for great impact throughout the film, while remaining production values are on par with other ultra-indie flicks. Penned by Fitzpatrick, the script nicely blends touches of film noirish dialogue with bits and pieces of old school detective dramas and exploitation flicks.
More likely to appeal to those with a taste for independent films who are able to appreciate a solidly made, nicely written and well acted modestly budgeted film despite its occasional tech issues, "The Death of Hollywood" is an entertaining and stylish film from 10-year veteran Blake Fitzpatrick and solid proof that in the hands of a competent filmmaker ambition and artistic vision can transcend budget and technical limitations.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic