Hollywood Homicide


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Harrison Ford – Joe Gavilan
Josh Hartnett – K. C. Calden
Keith David – Lieutenant Fuqua
Lena Olin
Bruce Greenwood – Bennie Macko
Isaiah Washington – Sartain
Dwight Yoakam – Rico Jackson
Gladys Knight – Lou King
Martin Landau – Jerry
Vyshonne Miller
Jamison Jones – Sgt. Bobby Riley
Lolita Davidovich – Ferre Salesclerk
Lou Diamond Phillips – Wanda
Tom Todoroff – IA Detective Zino
Master P

One is a real estate agent. The other is an actor. Together, they are L.A. homicide detectives on a case involving murdered rap stars.

That brief synopsis might as well have been the pitch for this convoluted action-comedy from Ron Shelton that stars Harrison Ford and Josh Hartnett as a seasoned detective and his spiritually minded New Age partner. Shelton is probably best known for his sports comedies, most notably Bull Durham and Tin Cup, both of which starred Kevin Costner, but his last movie, Dark Blue, looked into police corruption during the L.A. riots. While filming it, he heard so many stories from his police consultant, Robert Souza, that the two of them put together some of the stories to create this movie.

This year has seen Steve Martin prove that an older actor could still be hilarious doing the physical comedy in Bringing Down the House. Likewise, Jack Nicholson has proven his worth both as a dramatic actor in About Schmidt and a comedic one in Anger Management. Hollywood Homicide hopes to do the same for Harrison Ford, bringing him back into his comfortable role as a police officer. This time around, he is playing the role in a more humorous vein, as Detective Joe Gavilan is not the shrewd, gumshoe detective of Blade Runner, but rather, he is a bumbling, seasoned pro, more concerned with his real estate sideline. The irony of Ford being cast as the weathered detective suits the actor, since he seems like the perfect actor to play an older fish-out-of-water type trying to deal with new ideas.

That said, this is not one of Ford’s most memorable roles and his performance is embarrassing. His performance seems to be phoned in, as he hams it up for most of the movie. His over-the-top reaction to his partner’s spiritual mentality and the hip hop culture of the city, makes it hard to believe that he’s been on the force as long as he has. It ruins any chances of enjoying the movie, since most would expect better from Ford.

Josh Hartnett is a bit more laid-back in his role as police officer, K.C. Calden, who would rather be an actor, but joined the force in honor of his dead father, who was killed on the job. Both actors seem out of their element from the very beginning, and it takes most of the movie for any chemistry to develop between them. The pairing of the two seems awkward and uncomfortable maybe because they’re both playing characters less perfect than the ones they normally play on screen.

Hollywood Homicide’s main plot involves the shady dealings of a record company mogul, taken directly from the headlines about the murder of rap star, 2 Pac Shakur, and almost every hour-long television police drama has used this same plot. It’s hard to maintain interest in the plot when the perpetrators are revealed less than twenty minutes into the movie, and you’re almost thankful when the movie quickly loses sight of that plot in favor of the humor.

The movie’s one original joke revolves around the officers’ dual careers and how that interferes with their police work. They both take liberties using their status as detectives to make contacts for their other careers and more than once, they have to decide which is more important. While this is responsible for some of the movie’s funniest moments, the joke is milked to death, and the gag becomes old pretty fast, making the movie even more predictable. There are a few unique spins to the buddy cop genre, like the subdued chase across a duck pond, but from beginning to end, it’s far too easy to figure out where things are going.

The script and dialogue are only slightly better, doing little to raise the characters beyond the one-dimensional stereotypes seen in most police movies. The way that the movie depicts the police, the health conscious New Age culture of Los Angeles, and even the hip-hop community makes the movie seem even more dated, as if it were written in and around a Hollywood stuck in the 1990’s. The police are depicted as shallow and insignificant, which is particularly offensive when you realize that the movie was co-written by a former police officer. Even the setting of sunny L.A., while giving the movie a distinctive look, takes away from the grim ‘n’ gritty murder mystery set up in the early scenes. The rap-laden soundtrack also doesn’t work at all in its attempts to make the movie hipper.

After throwing just about every possible police cliché into the mix, Shelton realizes that the convoluted plot needs to be resolved, so he resorts to an age-old trick: an action packed chase sequence through the streets of L.A. After an hour and a half of stale humor, the action is appreciated, but the chase sequence isn’t nearly as impressive as others seen in recent months.

The supporting cast is one of the movie’s few saving graces. Lena Olin from the television show, “Alias”, is particularly good as the psychic love interest of Ford, and the chemistry between them does help to distract from the lack of same between the two male stars. Still, they should have learned something from the bad reaction to Clint Eastwood’s love scene in Blood Work last year, since most people don’t want or need to see older stars in lengthy love scenes. Other welcome surprises are the appearances by Dwight Yoakam, playing another great bad guy as he did in Panic Room, and Martin Landau, underused as a Hollywood producer type.

Without the comic presence of a Martin Lawrence or a Chris Tucker, Hollywood Homicide never attains the intensity of humor of the action-comedy classics like Beverly Hills Cop, Lethal Weapon and Rush Hour. Certainly, some might be able to look past the routine plot and obvious physical comedy; women of all ages should be able to enjoy the looks and charm exuded by Harrison and Hartnett to make up for their weak performances. Otherwise, the movie is painful to watch for anyone expecting an action-packed comedy on the par of previous movies in the genre. Already this summer, The Italian Job proved that action and comedy elements can still be combined in a entertaining and refreshing way. By comparison, Hollywood Homicide is a schizophrenic mess that doesn’t do justice to the previous work by any of those involved.

Hollywood Homicide opens nationwide this Friday.

Copyright 2003 Edward Douglas