We open on a disastrous test screening of the latest film by egregious, chemically dependent maverick director Jeremy Brunell (an OTT Michael Wincott). The audience is not responding well to his Sean Penn-starring crime drama, especially the closing scenes where a cute pooch gets blown to smithereens by Russian gangsters. Ben (Robert De Niro, coasting) is the hapless producer given the task of making him alter the ending before the film’s premiere at Cannes, while also having to force Bruce Willis (playing himself) to shave his bushy beard before an important shoot, all the while (you guessed it) having to keep up his alimony payments.
The film’s anecdotal structure allows for a tranche of fun cameos and scenes of awkward confrontation and humiliation – inviting comparisons to Altman’s ‘The Player’ – but it proves neither acerbic nor detailed enough to work as satire; nor is it engaging and realistic enough to work as drama. That it doesn’t have anything new to say about the coldly efficient Hollywood machine and its stratum of fearsome executives only hinders it further, leaving you with a film that feels every bit the product of its purportedly ruthless and artistically corrupting milieu.