Yes, the title Jimmy Zip: RELOADED sounds like a poor mockbuster of the Johnny English or Max Havoc series. In reality, this is the director’s cut of the 1999 drama, which was itself based on writer-director Robert McGinley’s 1996 short, also titled Johnny ZIp. Why the “reloaded” and not just call this a director’s cut? I don’t know. I do know that the film was restored and credited, sporting a new ending. However, I have never seen the original or the short, so how does this retooling stand on its own?
Jimmy Zip (Brendan Fletcher) is a tough kid with a large pyromaniac streak. After a tense confrontation with his foster father, Jimmy runs away, determined to make it on the streets. While only being out on his own for a brief time, he crosses the wrong guy and gets cut by a hard-living homeless person only slightly older than he is. Jimmy is saved by Shelia (Adrienne Frantz), and the two form a strong bond quickly. The teen also takes a courier job for bigwig drug dealer Rick (Chris Mulkey), who will treat you right until you cross him.
Of course, Jimmy makes a mistake and is put into Rick’s crosshairs. That mistake is losing $20,000 when he goofs off with some friends after completing half of a drop-off/pick-up. This is how Jimmy meets Horace (Robert Gosset), a homeless artist with Tourette’s. The artist sees potential in the kid, and soon, they are creating metal sculptures together. However, Rick and his goons are still looking for Jimmy and their missing money.
Jimmy Zip: RELOADED is a stark and grounded drama. McGinley wisely never judges Jimmy for his poor choices, letting viewers see him as well-meaning but misguided at times. As such, his good side also emerges, thus making the lead three-dimensional. Shelia is also well written, with the smarts to get out of scrapes but the same desires most people want. Those desires and dream chasing put her in precarious situations. Horace is an interesting and talented artist, though he’s a bit less well-rounded, as he always sees the good in people. Rick is just a dangerous man from the jump, but he is very threatening.
“…Rick and his goons are still looking for Jimmy and their missing money.”
Helping these characters feel fully fleshed out is the cast. Fletcher is incredible as Jimmy. He showcases his full range throughout the nearly 2-hour runtime. Frantz matches him at every turn. The way she builds “silent bids” for the art is genius. Gosset is a giant bear of a man, but also just so sweet and good-natured. Mulkey is menacing and proves to be a credible threat.
Unfortunately, Jimmy Zip: RELOADED is not without flaws. Some scenes don’t flow from one to the other smoothly. For example, Rick gives Jimmy a big assignment, the one for which he loses the money. The following sequence is him running into Shelia and other homeless kids. Did Jimmy bump into them on his way to this deal? After it was entirely complete? Yes, the answer eventually comes, but it takes longer than it should to find out. It also seems to go against Jimmy’s character to not fully get the job done.
On top of that, the ending is abrupt. Let me rephrase. The white text on a black background epilogue seems to come out of nowhere and rushes through what should be important information. Why weren’t these moments shot so the film could show and not tell? It is all a bit awkward.
Despite fumbling at the end, Jimmy Zip: RELOADED works far more often than not. The characters are interesting and realistic. The cinematography captures the grim of street life beautifully. The cast perfectly embodies their respective roles like a glove.
Preorder Jimmy Zip: RELOADED collector’s edition DVD and soundtrack CD at BoomCult.com.
"…the cast perfectly embodies their respective roles..."