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More like career suicide

Hollywood Homicide is a slack film, too intent on surfaces to be taut or cohesive. And Harrison Ford, instead of adding star power, seems sadly outpaced.

By STEVE PERSALL
Published June 12, 2003

photo
[Columbia Pictures]
The detective played by Harrison Ford, right, deserves a better backstory, and Josh Hartnett is stuck with an old gag: police officer who’s a sensitive, New Age guy.

That sinking feeling begins quickly in Hollywood Homicide, when Harrison Ford's grizzled detective covers for his coltish partner (Josh Hartnett) on the pistol range. It's inconceivable that a veteran cop would place his life in the hands of someone who can't shoot, especially when they don't get along to begin with. Let the kid fail and get a new partner, preferably with better aim and camaraderie.

If Ron Shelton's movie possessed an ounce of awareness, there wouldn't be a movie at all. Shelton, who has mostly struck out since Bull Durham, continually builds his film on implausibility, which would be fine if the dumb moves were funny. Hollywood Homicide becomes more frustrating by the scene, full of abrupt exposition and characters without meaning until it's time for the next coincidence and action that wheezes like its falling star.

Certainly it's time for Ford, 60, to begin playing characters incapable of the derring-do that made him a celebrity. Guys like Joe Gavilan, an aging, apparently good cop who deserves a better backstory than Shelton and co-writer Robert Souza provide. Joe moonlights, not very successfully, as a real estate agent with one overpriced property to deal. Shelton thinks it's hilarious to interrupt Joe constantly during a murder investigation as prospective buyers call. Maybe the first dozen times or so.

Joe's partner, K.C. Calden (Hartnett), is another hoary gag, a sensitive guy teaching yoga classes when he isn't rehearsing lines with Joe for his acting debut in A Streetcar Named Desire. Again, the old school vs. New Age material is amusing to a point. But only to a point, like contrasting the cops' cellular phone rings: Motown for Joe and Funky Town for K.C. Although that tune doesn't fit K.C.'s laid-back character, it suits Shelton's writing. Ford gets a few choice lines to slough off, and Hartnett serves his youth-appeal purpose.

The murder isn't a mystery, either. Someone has ordered the mass murder of a rising rap group, but his identity is apparent within the first 15 minutes when a triggerman (Dwight Yoakam) admits that he's the mastermind's employee. Catching the bad guy becomes an issue of the film's running time rather than clues. So, Shelton and Souza toss in another cop-movie cliche, the internal affairs investigation, to give Joe someone different to growl about.

Then the coincidences start piling up. Joe's lover (Lena Olin) happens to be psychic, so she can lead the movie into a chase sequence. She's also involved with the internal affairs investigator (Bruce Greenwood), who has ties to the bad guys, one of whom killed K.C's father. Martin Landau shows up as a man with a mansion that Joe might sell to a nightclub owner (Master P) who witnessed the murders. Landau's role also has meaning for K.C.'s character.

At times, it feels as if chunks of Hollywood Homicide must be lying on the editing room floor. Olin looks lost. A speeding car tipped on two wheels is filmed so sloppily that viewers must guess that's what the stunt was. A helicopter catastrophe is suggested, but maybe it didn't fit into the budget. And erratic shuffling among peripheral characters weakens any impact for drama, comedy or resolution.

Hollywood Homicide is like a poorly written rap song, concerned only with rhymes and never with reason. Mostly it feels like a desperate career choice for an actor lunging to remain relevant. Ford gets a crack at the youth market by standing next to Hartnett and the hip-hop angle, but that Indiana Jones 4 idea must be looking better every day.

Hollywood Homicide

Grade: C-

Director: Ron Shelton

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

Screenplay: Robert Souza, Ron Shelton

Rating: PG-13; violence, profanity, sexual situations

Running time: 111 min.

[Last modified June 11, 2003, 10:44:01]


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