Remember the good old days, not so long ago, when cops in buddy movies were actually cops? I longed for those days after sitting through “Hollywood Homicide,” a strained action-comedy that once again pairs a member of Hollywood’s old guard (Harrison Ford) with a member of the new guard (Josh Hartnett).
Directed and co-written by Ron Shelton, whose gift for sharp dialogue made such male bonding films like “White Men Can’t Jump” and “Bull Durham,” and so much fun, “Hollywood Homicide” feels like it was assembled in a blender. Toss in a little of this, a little of that, whatever is popular at the moment, and voila, you get a half-baked film that never rises.
Since Walter Hill (48 Hours) and Richard Donner (Lethal Weapon) have already made the definitive cop buddy movies, Shelton and co-writer Robert Souza, a former cop who served as Shelton’s technical advisor on “Dark Blue,” have layered the characters in “Hollywood Homicide” with quirky traits. The layers are supposed to add dimension to the standard issue cop character, but end up making them look foolish.
Ford is seasoned detective Joe Gavilan, who has been saddled with younger partner K.C. Calden (Hartnett) to investigate the murder of four hip hop artists. As if being a detective in Hollywood Homicide isn’t time consuming enough, Gavilan also sells pricey real estate on the side, while Calden teaches yoga and aspires to be the next Brando. These side jobs are supposed to make the characters more human, but serve as nothing more than uninspired fodder for a series of weak jokes.
The real joke is that the script seems more concerned with the dynamic between the two leads rather than the crime they are investigating, maybe because dead hip hop artists are a dime a dozen. You know a film is in trouble when the lead detective is more interested in selling a house than preserving the evidence. Gavilan is so predisposed to selling a certain piece of real estate that he even entertains a business call in the middle of a high chase pursuit.
It’s supposed to be funny, but it’s not. It’s just sad. So is the fact that Shelton piles on one cliche after another, everything from the hooker with a heart of gold, to the crooked Internal Affairs detective trying to nail Gavilan. Fact is, he’s really trying to get even with Gavilan for seeing his former girlfriend, a radio psychic played by Lena Olin. There’s very little in “Hollywood Homicide” that seems fresh and original. We’ve seen it all before.
Ford looks and acts like a seasoned detective, but there’s very little chemistry between him and Hartnett. Their relationship, like most of their dialogue, is strained. They act more like contestants in a television reality show, two strangers tossed together to see what develops. Unfortunately, everything about “Hollywood Homicide” feels underdeveloped. Hartnett espouses New Age wisdom, but is sounds like he’s reading passages from a self-help book.
On the plus side, “Hollywood Homicide” looks great, capturing both the sunny idealism and dark underbelly of Hollywood with a sharp eye. You just wish Shelton had written and directed a movie that was just as sharp.
Ford vehicle runs out of gas
Harrison Ford, Josh Hartnett, Lena Olin, Isaiah Washington, Bruce Greenwood, Lolita Davidovich, Martin Landau. Directed by Ron Shelton. Rated PG-13. 111 Minutes.
LARSEN RATING: $3.00