A pseudo-riff on Pinocchio and other fairy tales and mythologies, the urban fantasy Jimmy Zip has a unique voice and a prescient theme of misguided youth finding its way through trials and tribulations filtered through art and self-discovery.
A kid in the foster care system runs away from home and embarks on an odyssey of self-discovery and destruction.
Tossed around and passed through the foster care system, teenage wasteland survivor Jimmy (Brendan Fletcher) escapes his foster dad and begins his odyssey of self discovery on the only vehicle he’s got: His bike. He ends up on Hollywood Boulevard, that place of dreams where at night you can’t see the stars in the sky, but they’re at your feet, and they lead him to a posse of homeless miscreants who immediately spot him and size him up as either a piece of ass to sell or as a rube they can quickly shake down. They hand him a rag from his own bag and throw him to the passing cars and test his mettle as a windshield wiper some people might throw a buck at just to go away, and when he flags down a car with a suit-and-tie businessman named Rick (Chris Mulkey), the man takes a look at Jimmy and sees potential. He offers him a job as a bike courier, and even sets him up with a place to stay. For Jimmy Zip (his nickname), this is scoring big time. He’s soon delivering drugs and money all over town on his bike. The only rule is that he can’t use drugs, but one rule he didn’t know about was getting into trouble by making bad choices, and when he’s out one night with the homeless punks who are basically the kids who’ve already turned into donkeys like in Stromboli’s island of pleasure, Jimmy and the others prank a “troll” who lives in a junkyard, but in the scuffle to escape, his friends abandon him and the “troll” – a gentle black man with Tourette’s Syndrome named Horace (played by Robert Gossett) – grabs Jimmy’s jacket with Rick’s cash in it, and Jimmy gets away. When Jimmy realizes what has happened, he’s totally screwed, so he goes back to the junkyard later, but by then Horace has already spent some of the money on “art supplies” like scrap metal he uses to create weird, but highly original sculptures, and instead of going ballistic over his loss, Jimmy is fascinated by Horace’s artistry and all of a sudden, a spark is lit within Jimmy’s fiery heart. Still loyal to his boss, Jimmy snatches what’s left of the cash from Horace, and heads straight for his master, but knowing he’s to blame for what’s lacking in the amount he brings, he must work off what’s owed. Rick, sensing that Jimmy’s allegiance has been compromised, “gifts” him with the loving embrace of one of his new working girls, a simple-minded, but sweet-hearted girl named Sheila (Adrienne Frantz) whom Jimmy met on his first night in Hollywood. The coupling is transformative for Jimmy, but when he realizes that he’s been played, the event sends him tumbling into a funk that will end up solidifying his allegiance to Horace, whom he teams up with on a grandiose but ignorant plan to create a swathe of art pieces for an art gallery showing, using Rick’s money (close to 20K), but the catch is that just because they’ve got some crazy metallic sculptures doesn’t mean they’ll be able to get a prestigious gallery to show and / or sell them in a timely fashion. When Rick gets wind of Jimmy’s ambition as an artist and the fact that the kid stole some cash from him, him and his goons do the unexpected: They “sponsor” him and force a gallery to show and sell the kid’s work, which could net Rick more cash than the kid stole in the first place. The plan doesn’t go smoothly for anyone involved, and when Rick comes to collect what’s owed, Jimmy Zip and his only two friends on earth – Horace the troll and Sheila the tramp – are forced to make a stand.
A pseudo-riff on Pinocchio and other fairy tales and mythologies, the timeless urban fantasy Jimmy Zip has a unique voice and a prescient theme of misguided youth finding its way through trials and tribulations filtered through art and self-discovery. Writer / director Robert McGinley (Shredder Orpheus and Danger Diva, both of which utilize mythological themes to tell their grunge / cyberpunk tales) has a very unusual but specific style all his own that seems to pick up on the season of youth no matter what decade he’s making movies in, and here with this film he taps into a sound and a sense of dream and nightmare to tell his story. Thankfully, his cast is completely up to the task, with young Fletcher (who’s gone on to appear in such films as Terry Gilliam’s Tideland and Alejandro Inarritu’s The Revenant) giving a true and honest performance as a wide-eyed kid on the verge of destruction, and with co-star Mulkey, whose experience as a great character actor and sometime leading man (watch him in Dead Cold) gives the film an unsettling and unpredictable vibe of danger and malice. The film’s soundtrack with original songs and a cool score sounds great, and the film has aged remarkably well, considering it’s 25 years old. Nothing really dates it (I did see a billboard for X Files: Fight the Future which took me back), and the film is making the rounds again in a new director’s cut version – “Jimmy Zip Reloaded” – with a new ending that shortens the film by a few moments.