Movie Review

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  • Reviewed Format: Wide Theatrical Release
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Stars: Harrison Ford, Josh Hartnett, Lena Olin, Bruce Greenwood, Isaiah Washington, Lolita Davidovich, Keith David, Master P, Gladys Knight, Lou Diamond Phillips, Dwight Yoakum, Martin Landau
  • Writers: Robert Souza, Ron Shelton
  • Director: Ron Shelton
  • Distributor: Columbia


Quirky cops play for laughs on the streets of Tinseltown

By MICHAEL TUNISON     June 13, 2003

Here's a wacky twist on the buddy action-comedy: Instead of pairing two culture-clashing heroes from different racial/ethnic backgrounds (one or both of them comedians take your pick), how about matching up two stiff, white straight-men who collectively have about as much street cred as the Osmonds?

While HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE's departure from the genre's usual painfully calculated, urban-demographic-skewed formula leads it into refreshing territory at a few points, don't look for it to trigger any new trends. The results think BEVERLY HILLS COP minus Eddie Murphy are only sporadically funny, and do little to change the sense of flailing around that's marked star Harrison Ford's career in the last few years. While the action icon and sidekick Josh Hartnett share a watchable enough buddy-cop chemistry, one is left mostly with the wish that the mystery they're investigating would lead them into another film altogether preferably a more serious detective yarn in which their casting would make more sense.

That said, director/co-writer Ron Shelton (DARK BLUE, TIN CUP) deserves credit for at least trying to generate a slightly more offbeat, character-driven sort of humor than we're accustomed to seeing in films of the RUSH HOUR slapstick variety. He accomplishes this mainly through the focus on the quirky second vocations his L.A.P.D. heroes pursue in their off-hours: Ford's veteran dick Sgt. Joe Gavilan hopes to make his fortune selling real estate, while Hartnett's homicide greenhorn is better at teaching babe-filled yoga classes than chasing down bad guys though what he really wants to do is act. Their more pressing goals involve Joe's desperate efforts to close a lucrative deal on a mansion owned by a movie producer (Martin Landau) and K.C.'s attempt to launch his acting career by tackling the Brando part in his own showcase stage production of A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE.

The laughs


such as they are come mostly from how these pursuits conflict with the detectives' work on a rather dreary case triggered by the on-stage mass-murder of an up-and-coming rap group. Since the maneuverings of the stock bad guys (Isaiah Washington, Dwight Yoakum) are clearly not enough to hold an audience's interest, the filmmakers toss in an Internal Affairs investigator (THE CORE's ever-reliable Bruce Greenwood) with personal reasons for making Joe's life hell.

Since neither Ford nor Hartnett has the full-on comedian's touch for turning practically anything into a gag, the film's comic momentum depends on scripted character moments something it delivers unevenly at best. Anybody who's ever seen the original STAR WARS or INDIANA JONES series knows how effective Ford can be at humor set firmly in the context of character or action. His specialty is the moment of hilariously intense exasperation as mounting obstacles frustrate his best efforts to achieve some goal it's not him that's funny, but rather his all-too-human reaction to the way the world seems to be conspiring against him. He's as great as ever when HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE throws a few such moments his way, but unfortunately the film also obliges him to practice a kind of goofy broad humor he doesn't have the same talent for. Hartnett, whose pursuit of a career as a thespian is the weaker of the two moonlighting subplots, finds himself in even worse straits for most of the film. The main thing he takes away from the enterprise is the flattering prospect of appearing side-by-side on the poster with Han Solo.

The most memorable comic bit an extended interrogation room sequence in which the heroes go to outrageous lengths to resist their Internal Affairs tormentors is probably the best glimpse of what Shelton and co-writer Robert Souza (a former L.A.P.D. detective) hoped to achieve humor-wise. There's also some popcorn movie fun to be had in a Keystone Cops-like chase across Hollywood that takes up the entire last act. And the eternally sexy Lena Olin, as a call-in radio psychic, turns out to be the most effective Ford love interest we've seen in a long time not to mention one, refreshingly, in his same general age bracket. It's nice to know somebody can still get the aging screen idol's juices flowing.

For the most part, however, HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE seems destined to join efforts like K-19: THE WIDOWMAKER, RANDOM HEARTS, SABRINA and REGARDING HENRY in the long line of Ford Stretch Films his ongoing campaign to show the world there's more to him than just being the greatest American action hero of his era. While he hasn't been very lucky in his choice of projects to demonstrate this, there's always the consolation that, much like HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE's Joe, he can always fall back on the main day job he does so well.

Questions? Comments? Let us know what you think at feedback@cinescape.com.


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