When a multiple killing occurs in a hip-hop venue in Los Angeles, the two cops who set out to find the killer couldn't be more different. Joe Gavilan (Harrison Ford) is cynical, three-times-divorced and nearing the end of his career, while K.C. Calden (Josh Hartnett) is a young, sensitive stud. But as the investigation proceeds, both have problems keeping their mind on their work: Joe is troubled by financial problems relating to his second job as a real-estate agent, while K.C., also moonlighting but as a yoga teacher, contemplates ditching police work to become an actor.
Review by Shannon J. Harvey:
I have always thought Harrison Ford would be good in a crackling Hollywood comedy. After all, Ford effectively gave his intergalactic space pirate Han Solo a cheeky streak in the Star Wars movies and his archeological action hero Indiana Jones a goofy streak in the Indiana Jones movies. In fact, Ford has always shown a gift for playing cute on his tough guy image. So I was looking forward to seeing him in his first out-and-out comedy.
And he's good as grumpy old Joe Gavilan, a hard bitten homicide veteran. He's also well matched with the impossibly young looking Josh Hartnett as his hippie partner. Hartnett even resembles a young Ford. Unfortunately, director Ron Shelton and writer Rob Souza (himself an LAPD cop for 25 years) try to turn Hollywood Homicide into more of a crime solving drama than a 48 Hours or Lethal Weapon style caper that puts the comedy ahead of the action.
The result - though quite original in its own right - is a laconic rather than spitfire comedy that prefers to cruise than crackle. Instead of creating hijinks and wisecracks that arise from the mismatched personalities of these keystone cops, Shelton and Souza get too tangled up in the crime solving drama. But the potential is certainly there. Hartnett is a wannabe actor - namely Brando - and his audition for A Streetcar Named Desire goes disastrously wrong. And to hear him read lines for him as Blanche is a kick. Much of the sight gags and wisecracks are left to Ford and he relishes it, engaging in a little romantic role playing with his boss's wife (Lena Olin) by donning the CHIPS style sunglasses and chowing down on a donut. But Shelton directs with such a lacklustre laziness that it almost slows the wit down to a crawl. The film clearly needs to be a punchier wisecracking caper than a plodding Murder She Wrote whodunnit.
An extended climactic car chase is very good, however, with Ford and Hartnett chasing the bad guys in everything from a Mustang to a taxi cab to a pink girl's bike to a foot chase. Though slower and sillier than it should be, Hollywood Homicide is enjoyable for its laid back take on crime busting. It at least creates two oddball lead characters with some likeable quirks – though they're more lovable than lethal weapons.
Review by Jake Wilson:
Part of the problem is the buddy-comedy formula, where energy is supposedly generated by the friction between two contrasting types: here the relationship between the two leads barely evolves from start to finish, and both seem too stolid to do more than act mildly annoyed with each other.
It's a long time since Harrison Ford's acting held any surprises; as he settles into the role of grumpy old man, his strained grimaces might as well belong to a performing ape, suggesting a weary boredom that belongs to the star as much as the character. Josh Hartnett has more enthusiasm and a fresher face; again, there's a sense he could be playing himself as one of Hollywood's new breed of sensitive man-child hunks, equally at home wrestling a suspect to the ground or coaching a yoga class that doubles as a personal harem.
There's a certain fascination to this up-to-date stereotype, but the script never follows through on any of its themes, missing the comic and dramatic potential of the contrast between the routine brutality of police work and Hartnett's mystical yearning to follow his 'bliss' as an actor. Making this dilemma funny would also involve taking it seriously - but Shelton is no Howard Hawks, or even Steven Spielberg, when it comes to exploring moral issues through light entertainment.
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HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE (M)
CAST: Harrison Ford, Josh Hartnett, Lena Olin, Bruce Greenwood, Isaiah Washington, Lolita Davidovich, Keith David, Master P, Dwight Yoakam, Martin Landau, Lou Diamond Phillips, Gladys Knight
PRODUCER: Lou Pitt, Ron Shelton
DIRECTOR: Ron Shelton
SCRIPT: Robert Souza, Ron Shelton
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Barry Peterson
EDITOR: Paul Seydor
MUSIC: Alex Wurman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: James D. Bissell
RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 4, 2003