It’s far too in-jokey to draw masses to megaplexes, but Michael Mongillo’s modestly clever mockumentary “Being Michael Madsen” could generate smiles of approval (and shocks of recognition) among showbiz insiders and media-savvy civilians as homevid and pay-cable fare. Madsen earns points as a good sport for offering himself as the punchline of the pic’s central running gag — i.e., he’s such a superstar celebrity, he’s constantly hounded by paparazzi and exploited by tabloids. Faux testimonies by many of the actor’s real-life friends and associates add a touch of Pirandellian cheekiness to the satirical construct.
In the pic’s alternative universe, Madsen takes drastic measures when a slick-but-slimy tabloid reporter (persuasively played by Jason Alan Smith) concocts a story about the actor’s involvement with an alleged murder. Specifically, Madsen hires three idealistic (but cash-strapped) documentarians (Davis Mikaels, Doug Tompos, Kathy Searle) to turn the tables by recording the activities, and uncloseting the skeletons, of the fabulist journo.
Innocents are corrupted and just desserts are served in predictable but funny fashion, while interviewees (including David Carradine and Daryl Hannah, Madsen’s “Kill Bill” co-stars) provide sporadic commentary. More than one sagely notes that, alas, too many people confuse Madsen with the character he played in “Reservoir Dogs.”
Mongillo gets laughs with well-chosen, spot-on details: One of the documentarians winds up on the cover of MovieMaker magazine, past events are rendered as melodramatic (and stiffly acted) re-enactments, and several of the interviews — including one with a straight-faced, hyper-critical Virginia Madsen, Michael’s sister — could easily pass for the real things on many reality TV shows. Indeed, you can’t help suspecting the entire pic could be dropped into the middle of A&E’s program lineup, or MSNBC’s primetime “Doc Block,” and most viewers wouldn’t get the joke.
At 90 minutes, “Being Michael Madsen” could benefit from judicious trimming. But apt production values enhance the illusion of a documentary within a documentary.