Director: Allen Coulter

HBO director Allen Coulter (Sopranos, Sex and the City) made his film debut with this highly stylized noir based on the mysterious true events surrounding the death of George Reeves, the actor who was famous to millions of American families for his role as TV’s Superman. However, after the man of steel proves that he is not faster than a speeding bullet after all when found dead of a supposedly self-inflicted gunshot wound, other facts come to light indicating that the “suicide” may in fact have been murder. Fame and fortune hungry sleazy private detective Adrien Brody goes on the case uncovering some of Reeves’s dirty little secrets including his long-time affair with Toni Mannix (Diane Lane), the married wife of MGM studio boss (Bob Hoskins) and his relationship with the younger, manipulative, sexy and possibly dangerous fiancĂ© at the time of his death, Leonore Lemmon (Robin Tunney). The film, which benefits greatly from not only the aforementioned performers but most notably from the impressively mature and astute performance of Ben Affleck as Reeves who proves once and for all to those who’d written him off in the past that he is a truly gifted performer, earning several nominations for the role including an award as Best Actor from the Venice Film Festival (giving him some promising early Oscar buzz that unfortunately never paid off). While it was never Coulter’s and screenwriter Paul Bernbaum’s intention to make Hollywoodland turn into a Reeves biopic, the finished product, while based on some intriguing facts, does end up as a relatively uneven and unsuccessful noir that works best when dealing exclusively with the flashbacks of Reeves and the questionable characters and events that surrounded his demise. However, too much time is spent on the usually excellent Adrien Brody, who was unfortunately given a clichĂ©d role that bogs the film down with a far less fascinating storyline as he comes off as a sort of Humphrey Bogart meets Sam Spade archetype that calls more attention to itself as a cinematic noir entry when it should’ve been a far more natural and involving mystery in its own right. Overall, the actors save the film and keep viwers riveted, especially thanks to the female turns by the dominating and underappreciated Tunney and a fearless Lane as the vulnerable older woman. When the movie ended, however, I found myself doing some independent research on the Reeves mystery as the film, while well-constructed, ends up raising more questions than offering any kind of answer or resolution, opting instead to be just simply a showcase of mostly smoky noir-esque mood cinematography and shady characters.