Search for One-Eyed Jimmy, The: Sam Henry Kass’ Flat Comedy, Starring Samuel L. Jackson, John Turturro, and Steve Buscemi

The real mystery in The Search for One-Eyed Jimmy, Sam Henry Kass’ disappointing feature debut, is not the missing son of the title, but the appearance of terrifically gifted actors such as Samuel L. Jackson, John Turturro, and Steve Buscemi (among others) in such a flat comedy.

This puzzle is partly resolved in the end credits, which reveal that pic was shot in 1993, before some of these actors established themselves as icons of indie cinema. Friends and fans of high-spirited cast may keep this lugubrious movie in the theaters for a week or so; after that, it’s straight-to-video.

As scripter and helmer, Kass reaffirms the feeling that young filmmakers should avoid at all costs making movies about movies–unless they have a new angle or fresh story to tell. Set in South Brooklyn, tale centers on Les (Holt McCallany), a young director right out of film school, who returns to his old neighborhood to make a documentary. In the process, he discovers that the community is painfully obsessed with the mysterious disappearance of Jimmy (Sam Rockwell), son of Holly and Harold Hoyt (Anne Meara and Pat McNamara) and brother of Ed (Buscemi) and Tommy (Wayne Maugans).

New info changes the focus of Les’ film to what’s meant to be a mad-cap comedy, driven by wild goose chases and colorful, wacky characters. Instead, what unfolds on screen is a tedious comedy, consisting of encounters with inept representatives of the FBI, Catholic Church, the Mob, and various individuals who are eccentric without being truly funny. Hence, John Turturro plays a 1970s disco king who now dances solo in the local schoolyard; real-life brother, Nick Turturro, portrays a sharp-tongued car thief who betrays his best friends; Jackson embodies a deranged Vietnam vet who engages in profane monologues while fishing sneakers out of the river, and so on.

Revelations of the circumstances under which Jimmy vanished–and earlier had lost his eye–are neither witty nor diverting enough to be entertaining, and cynical ending a la “Player” rings false. Kass has aspired to make a fast-moving slapstick comedy, but his dialogue and direction are so pedestrian that, with the possible exception of Buscemi, no member of his talented ensemble registers strong; some, like Meara, McNamara, and Beals, are totally wasted.

Tech credits, particularly Robert Nickson and Chuck Leveys’ lensing and Mark Juergens’ editing, are on the raw side in what seems an extremely low-budget effort.