Mark Reviews Movies

HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE

2 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Ron Shelton

Cast: Harrison Ford, Josh Hartnett, Lena Olin, Bruce Greenwood, Isaiah Washington, Lolita Davidovich, Keith David, Master P, Dwight Yoakam, Martin Landau

MPAA Rating:  PG-13 (for violence, sexual situations and language)

Running Time: 1:51

Release Date: 6/13/03


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Review by Mark Dujsik

Hereís yet another buddy comedy/action flick where two cops with some sort of barrier join forces and save the day. This time around, Harrison Ford plays the veteran cop, and Josh Hartnett plays his partner. With thirty-six years between the two actors, itís fairly obvious weíve got a generational gap at play for laughs here. Ford plays the cop with old-fashioned, conservative values; Hartnett plays the kid who is thinking heíd rather be an actor. Theyíre not so different, though; both of them have outside jobs. Ford works on the side (and on duty) as a real estate agent, and Hartnettís got a nice little cash cow teaching beautiful women yoga. Ford has his women too, though, namely Lena Olin.  So, I guess he canít complain. Theyíre both really popular on top of it, especially Ford. Just watch how many times his cell phone rings during the course of Hollywood Homicide. It becomes a running gag and gimmickóan obnoxious one on both fronts. The cell phone becomes the expository character in the movie. Itís more important to the story and may have more screentime than Hartnett.

Ford plays Joe Gavilan, who juggles his work as an officer and a realtor with little success. Internal Affairs is looking into his life and his co-mingling of funds, which wouldnít usually be of too much concern for anyone else, but the agent in charge Macko (Bruce Greenwood) has it out for him and, by association, Hartnettís K.C. Calden. Anyway, the movie opens at a club in L.A. where a popular new rap group is about to give their final performance. Two men sneak guns into the club and, after the performance, slip backstage and kill them. Gavilan and Calden are called in to investigate. The inspection uncovers very little, but soon after, two more bodies are discovered in a burnt car. Itís the two shooters. Seems that someone killed them after they killed the rappers. And it turns out that someone is Sartain (Isaiah Washington), the president of the groupís record label who wants to send a message to anyone who might think they can go out on their own.

The plot is unimportant, because itís simply filler. Replace any one of these specific elements with something else, and youíd essentially have the same thing. If this is a comedy, though, you could have fooled me. Director Ron Shelton takes so much of this too seriously. He and fellow screenwriter Robert Souza (a former officer of the L.A.P.D.) are venturing into routine territory and make every effort to stick to the standard. The moments they take a risk, it usually works. Note a chase that has Hartnett running across a bridge and back to catch a witness fleeing in a paddle boat. Itís perfectly absurd and, yes, funny. Pay attention to a few choice cameos by Eric Idle, as a celebrity arrested for soliciting favors, Robert Wagner, as Robert Wagner receiving a star outside of Graumanís Chinese Theatre, and Lou Diamond Phillips, as an undercover cop in drag to bust a prostitution ring. This is funny stuff, but itís spread out to far and in-between the straightforward formula. Itís not until a final chase that all of these elements come together and create a noteworthy comic spectacle that simultaneously follows and mocks formulaic conventions.

The thing that makes these movies work is the chemistry between the lead duo. Thereís not much going on in this case. Hartnett is an actor Iíve had to warm up to, but heís starting to show his stuff. I still doubt he could carry an entire movie on his shoulders (and Iím not sure he ever could), but heís stands out in these quiet, brooding roles. Heís nicely mellow and laid back for the most part, and a few of his later moments, such as the discovery of his fatherís killer and a late night shooting range scene, are some his best work. Ford, on the other hand, isnít even close to his best. Thereís something missing from his performanceómainly, a level of interest. Ford can almost always be counted on to bring some life to something with a seemingly ageless youthfulness, but the few occasions it shows through hardly make up for the rest of it. His best moment comes in the midst of the final chase scene, when, failing to commandeer a car, he takes a little girlís bike and snarls at her objection. With the main pair missing a much-needed energy, it allows someone like Bruce Greenwood to stand out. Someone needs to get him some better workóand soon.

I guess you canít blame Ford for being bored during most of this, but itís too bad the fact is so painfully apparent throughout the movie. Hollywood Homicide is proof, once again, that even the most likable stars can be doomed by mediocre materialÖ and having to wear sunglasses and eat a donut during a love scene. Although, we do get to see an absolutely terrible production of a scene from A Streetcar Named Desire, so maybe itís not all that bad.

Copyright © 2003 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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