From minute one you can see the similarities to the films of Tarantino; with the quirky conversations, sitting around a coffee table with some unruly characters with an offbeat demeanour about them, but this film is more Trailer Park Boys (which is pushing it) than Reservoir Dogs, that’s for certain. It tries to mould itself on Tarantino’s classic crime films with its mix of characters in multiple timelines, coupled with a very long and slightly boring voice-over (a cliche to say the least), it results in a very familiar and not so creative outcome that leaves a bitter taste in one’s mouth.
Dreaming Hollywood follows the unusual life of Raymond Balfi (Turk Matthews) as he navigates the tribulations of small-time drug dealing and the dreams of becoming a screenwriter in La La Land (we’ve all been there my friend). What is Balfi’s screenplay you ask? It’s called “The Dog’s Meow” about a cartoon dog who goes undercover as a cat – it’s not quiet Serpico now is it? I know this is a satirical film, but you can’t help feeling sorry for the unfortunate Balfi, a man who has learning difficulties and is constantly taken advantage of by a heap of unruly figures – the poor guy just wants to get his screenplay out there.
The people in Balfi’s life consist of crooked cops, prostitutes, drug dealers, more social rejects, all of whom are as ridiculous as the last. What hinders all these characters though is poor dialogue and bad acting, and the pacing isn’t much help either; attempting to use quick cuts that jump in time to make it smart and suave but is more successful at leaving you confused. But back to that dialogue, the attempt is clear, try and give every character quirky lines and funny jokes, which is just too much, especially if it isn’t funny – even Tarantino knows to have a straight man and a funny man.
And with that poor dialogue is questionable acting (which is to be expected); very one dimensional and they almost look in pain when trying to deliver a line – if you look very closely you can see their insides cringe at specific moments. Dreaming Hollywood also consists of the least intimidating villains in cinema history, one of the two main foes sounds like a cartoon character (he might be more at home in “The Dog’s Meow”), and the other – a former successful musician – is constantly on edge, so it’s either the drugs or the lack of height that is turning him so fowl.
This really is more of a slapstick buddy comedy, in the nature of Pineapple Express but lacks any of that film’s likeability. It is desperate to be one of those goofy crime thrillers but falls massively short by being too obscure and lacking in any thrill – which is kind of the bread and butter of that genre. It doesn’t take itself seriously, even in those rare action scenes – sequences that reminded me of those old Nollywood films of the noughties but lacking in their charisma – you anticipate someone will slip on an unfortunately placed puddle of blood. And that “dance scene” was so out of place and unexpected that the slapstick legends of a bygone era would have cringed at the sight.
The film didn’t make any sense, it was so bizarre and followed no particular structure; the story lacked engagement, it was incredibly rushed and very chaotic. There was a constant cheapness attached to the film throughout, which can sometimes propel a film to levels of great authenticity, but this feels like it’s about to fall off a cliff. The film even tried to wind everything up with one huge flashback montage akin to the Tarantino or Guy Richie mould – summing everything up in this way is meant to be slick and exciting, this couldn’t have been more opposite.
The story had the potential to be endearing, with a character that fights against all the odds; his loneliness, the disability he is plagued with, just wanting to achieve his dreams, for it all to break down in a catastrophic fashion in front of his eyes – I can’t help feeling that director Frank Martinez missed a trick with this one, instead, the film falls down a mineshaft of complete misery for every character. Sometimes films are so bad they are good, and of course, people out there will enjoy this for its wackiness and satire like appearance, but I’d like to meet those people and ask them, why?