Director’s Cut

(USA 2016)

Yeah…this. Hmmm. Herbert Blount (Penn Jillette) is a weird crowdfunding stalker obsessed with actress Missi Pyle, playing herself, who costars in a low budget crime-gore “movie” with Harry Hamlin and a guy named Reed (Hayes MacArthur). Blount, who is given behind-the-scenes access because he used his PayPal account to donate a large sum of money to the project, is seduced by the artistic process and secretly hijacks the film to make his own version: he wants Pyle front and center. He undermines the director (Adam Rifken), steals footage, and kidnaps Pyle to shoot new scenes with her in his basement.

A movie within a fake movie (Knocked Off), Director’s Cut is a satire of the film industry, celebrity, and the changing role of the audience. Directed for real by Rifken, it exhibits some competent technical handiwork: Knocked Off, little more than a CSI episode, looks professional right down to its angles, cuts, and color grade. A slew of cameos—some, like Jillette, former contestants of Celebrity Apprentice (Gilbert Godfrey, Lisa Rinna)—adds a smart lighthearted touch. Jillette’s longtime partner in magic, Raymond Joseph Teller, makes a fun though not exactly unexpected appearance. Pyle’s diva tantrums “off screen” are amusing. The film makes interesting and timely points about the dangers of giving artistic input and access to the general public and obsessed fans: even in an era where the tools of the trade are readily available to virtually anyone, not everyone can (or should attempt to) make a movie.

Director’s Cut just doesn’t cut it. Sadly, Jillette himself is the most disappointing thing about it. He doesn’t pull off creepy; his gentle, dulcet voice bantering lame “commentary”—like in a bonus feature of a DVD (get it?)—undermines that. Worse, his terrible “acting,” the oddly tame scenes he stages with Pyle, and his crude homemade edits of his version of the film paint him as a harmless grandfatherly dolt more than anything. The gimmick here wears out before the movie is even half over. Director’s Cut has good ideas, but it’s just not funny.

83 minutes
Not rated

(Gene Siskel Film Center) D-