Director : Ron Shelton
Screenplay : Robert Souza & Ron Shelton
MPAA Rating : PG-13
Year of Release : 2003
Stars : Harrison Ford (Joe Gavilan), Josh Hartnett (K.C. Calden), Lena Olin (Ruby), Bruce Greenwood (Bennie Macko), Isaiah Washington (Sartain), Lolita Davidovich (Cleo), Keith David (Leon), Master P (Julius Armas), Dwight Yoakam (Wasley), Martin Landau (Jerry Duran), Gladys Knight (Olivia Robidoux), Lou Diamond Phillips (Wanda), Kurupt (K-Ro), Dré (Silk)
The central joke of Ron Shelton’s buddy-cop flick Hollywood Homicide is that LAPD detectives are always moonlighting, sometimes when on duty. It’s as if the cops don’t really want to be cops—they all want to be something else, whether it be a real-estate agent, a yoga instructor, or a music mogul’s personal bodyguard. Hardly the most popular police department in the U.S., the LAPD has often been depicted as a den of racism and corruption; here, they’re just ordinary guys looking for their true calling.
It’s an interesting central joke with great potential, but unfortunately, the movie never generates any rhythm or tension or even much in the way of humor. It’s a series of gags and ideas that zig and zag, but never cohere in any appreciable way. Cowritten by director Ron Shelton and a former LAPD detective named Robert Souza, Hollywood Homicide has the distinct aura of desperation, which is sort of funny because one of the things it wants to make fun of is desperation itself.
Harrison Ford and Josh Hartnett play a pair of LAPD detectives who are assigned to a homicide investigation into a rap group that has been gunned down gangland-style in an L.A. club. Ford and Hartnett are clearly meant to be an amusing odd-couple pairing, but the two have virtually no chemistry together; they look positively bored when in the other’s presence, and there’s no pulse in their exchanges.
Ford’s Joe Gavilan is an aging veteran who dapples in real estate on the side, while Hartnett’s K.C. Calden is a New Agey rookie with a jones for acting. Joe is a character well-matched to Ford’s comic potential, although Shelton constantly feels the urge to push it one step too far, as in the big chase sequence at the end that eventually finds Joe pedaling through Beverly Hills in hot pursuit on a pink Schwinn. His character works best in his darkest moments, when he’s bemoaning all the alimony he has to pay three ex-wives or his inability to unload a “monstrosity” in a tacky neighborhood in which all the streets are named after Greek gods.
K.C., on the other hand, is something of a mystery. He’s sincere in what he does, but we’re never sure if he’s meant to be a bimbo or a brain. Hartnett’s boyishness is played to the hilt, and his character’s obsessions with yoga, health food, and metaphysics are intended to rub against Joe’s cynical masculinity (they are symbolized by their food choices, Joe’s being a hamburger without any “rabbit food” on it and K.C.’s being tomatoes and cucumbers on whole wheat with extra bean sprouts). Why, then, is K.C. given a laboriously dramatic subplot about the murder of his police officer father, one that comes full circle in an Oedipal moment in which K.C. is given the opportunity to face down the killer?
For most of its running time, Hollywood Homicide lumbers gamely through a series of interrelated, but never engaging subplots, all of which attempt to milk the Hollywood aura for all its worth (there are scenes on Rodeo Drive and at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, as well as a few amusing cameo bits, including Eric Idle as a celebrity being booked for solicitation who cries, Pete Townsend-style, that he was just researcingh a book, and Martin Landau as a high-profile producer in Robert Evans glasses).
The main plot involves the homicide investigation, which leads Joe and K.C. to the sky-high offices of music mogul Sartain (Isaiah Washington). But, in addition to that, there is a subplot about an internal-affairs investigation into Joe’s “commingling of funds” by a bitter police bureaucrat (Bruce Greenwood) who is made all the more bitter by the fact that Joe is sleeping with his psychic-radio-talk-show-host ex-girlfriend (Lena Olin). In what has to be the movie’s weirdest scene, Ford and Olin have a loving moment in bed that involves an unexpected pair of sunglasses and a doughnut. Well, maybe the scene in which Lou Diamond Philips dons drag as an undercover cop is a little weirder.
Unintended weirdness has pumped up the entertainment factor of many by-the-numbers Hollywood projects (see just about every genre movie Renny Harlin has ever made), but not this one. For all its weirdness, Hollywood Homicide still feels painfully rote. Shelton has proved that he can play deftly with character and tone in sports comedies like Bull Durham (1988) and Tin Cup (1996), but here it seems like he has a tin ear, letting all the jokes either fall flat or play out too long. The only extended sequence in which he generates genuine laughs is an internal-affairs interrogation scene in which Joe spends half the time on the phone brokering a real-estate deal and K.C. does yoga. Much of the credit to that sequence goes to Ford and Hartnett, and it’s unfortunate that so much of the rest of the movie has no idea what to do with them.
Copyright © 2003 James Kendrick