The directorial debut of Jason Mewes, best known as the chatty drug dealer standing next to the relatively quiet Kevin Smith in a whole series of films, is perhaps the most intricate Hollywood fringe masochist autobiographical fantasy since Pauly Shore is Dead – in which Mewes also appeared, come to think of it.
The premise is that, after well-publicised ups and downs with addiction, Mewes feels he’s ready to move beyond his current status as a walking in-joke and land serious roles in films not directed by Kevin Smith … but the world is stacked against him until a suave, mysterious fellow (Jamie Camil) gives him a book that is bigged up as a combination of Stanislavsky and the Necronomicon and will enable Mewes to turn things around by embracing ‘the method’ (represented here with about as much subtlety as in that ‘Method for Murder’ story from The House That Dripped Blood). Setting out to impress casting director Anthony Costalino (Matt Willis) with his threatening gangster act, Mewes blunderingly kills the guy – and fouls up his alibi/crime scene protocol so much that it looks like his good friend Vinnie Jones (as himself) is responsible. Mewes’ impulse is to do the right thing and own up, but his apparent involvement in the Jones murder lands him a few career advancement opportunities and he leaves his friend to stew while rising up the hot list.
Scripted by Chris Anastasi and Dominic Burns, this has the core of a funny, Faustian fable – though the central dilemma of Mewes in feeling shackled by his ‘Jay’ act doesn’t quite register. For those who’ve been paying attention to his under-the-radar genre CV (which includes Netherbeast Incorporated, Feast, RSVP and The Tripper, not to mention Halloweed and Hollyweed), Mewes has actually shown quite a range beyond his goofy image (more than Pauly Shore, at least). His best work is probably the interesting little vampire movie Bitten. Here, he may be stretching things by directing as well – though he interestingly reframes his relationship with Smith (playing himself as a douchebag) and fellow Clerks alumnus Brian O’Halloran, who is in this universe about to direct an Oscar buzz adaptation of the Odyssey Mewes wants to play the lead in.
As a crime comedy, it’s on the basic side – putting a toe on ground trodden by Killing Hasselhoff or Kill Keith – and Mewes’ ability to sign up friends for cameos proves a a mixed blessing. Dean Cain and Zach Galligan are funny, also playing up their desperation as versions of themselves, and deadpan David Dastmalchian is very funny as a key witness. But Danny Trejo (waving a feather boa) and Caspar Van Dien get stuck with painful dated fey routines, Stan Lee feels more like product placement, and Judd Nelson pretty much hides. Teri Hatcher (as Mewes’ agent), Gina Carano (as his girlfriend) and Esther Anderson (as the fetish police commissioner) all play ball-busting bitches who pose in underwear – stressing that this world has little room for women. FrightFest regular Jake West is an extra in an on-set sequence.