Hollywood Homicide
review by Dan Lybarger, 13 June 2003

The opening sequence of Hollywood Homicide sums up much of what could have made the film work and what often goes terribly wrong.

As grizzled detective Joe Gavilan, Harrison Ford is instantly recognizable even though it's the first time he's actually showed his age in a film. Despite the gray hairs, Gavilan still wields a pistol with intimidating finesse. Every shot is a direct hit to the appropriate parts of the target. There's a hint of authenticity because all the cops in this target practice session wear earplugs.

That sense of realism vanishes when we see Joe's partner K.C. Calden (Josh Hartnett) take his shots. The neophyte detective misses with every shot he fires. Gavilan gets so annoyed that he starts shooting at Calden's target almost out of spite.

The sequence is mildly amusing, but it leaves viewers with a nagging "yeah, right" feeling that lingers throughout the film. A quick call to my library and a visit to the LAPDís official web site indicates their cops are tested for a minimum level of competency with a pistol. Police cadets without this proficiency probably arenít asked to apply. Itís hard to set an appropriate mood when filmmakers go to the trouble of making sure that target practice features real ergonomic devices like earplugs but strain credibility for the sake of a joke that elicits just a few giggles. If youíre going to risk suspension of disbelief, it had better be damn funny.

Thereís a clever, quirky movie eagerly trying to emerge from Hollywood Homicide. Co-Writer and Director Ron Sheltonís films often focus on aspects of his characterís professions that donít get covered in movies. In Bull Durham, viewers get to hear baseball playersí inner thoughts or get to hear them do surprising but credible things like debate the merits of Susan Sontagís novels. In Hollywood Homicide, the story spends as much time following the cops on their moonlighting gigs as their case. Itís no secret that cops receive unfairly paltry salaries. Gavilan tries to make ends meet through real estate deals, while Calden teaches yoga. The latterís side gig has an almost magnetic effect on women even though he canít remember their names. This trait bodes poorly for his ambitions to be an actor.Gavilan lacks his partnerís female adoration, but after a series of disastrous marriages, heís taken up with a radio psychic (Lena Olin).

The moonlighting gags might seem a little silly (Gavilan negotiates home sales in the middle of high-speed chases), but co-writer Robert Souza has actually served as one of LAís finest and probably knows things that movies often ignore. The most entertaining moments in Hollywood Homicide occur during these scenes. Calden and his witnesses, who also long to be stars, sometimes trade scripts for 8" by 10"s, and Ford shows some unexpected comic timing when he tries to juggle a home sale with an Internal Affairs investigation

Ford looks like heís actually enjoying the change of pace, so itís a shame that Hartnett seems to be spending the flick trying to catch up with him. He isnít helped by the fact that his character is stuck with a few too many cop movie clichťs. Yes, Caldenís father was a policeman who died in the line of duty, and one of the other characters in film later turns out to be responsible.

Hollywood Homicide really loses its footing when it tries too diligently to be a conventional police drama. The two partnersí other jobs have irked Internal Affairs, particularly a bitter fellow named Bennie Macko (Bruce Greenwood, 13 Days).

Keeping Macko off their cases is enough of a hassle, but the two are also investigating a deadly nightclub shooting that may involve a prominent record company owner (Isaiah Washington).

The obviousness of this guyís guilt (heís clearly modeled after Suge Knight) blunts the narrative. Thereís no tension to at all. Unfortunately, because this is a Harrison Ford movie, there almost seems to be a contractual obligation to stick in protracted action scenes. Itís a rare flick that gets dull during the car chases. Hollywood Homicide manages because it really doesnít do anything new

Coming out on the heels of the more creative and adrenaline-pumping vehicle pursuits in The Matrix Reloaded and The Italian Job does not help, and having the chase barreling through the same Hollywood Boulevard and Highland location of the latter film exacerbates the dťjŗ vu.

Shelton has a gift for creating off-kilter characters (like Rosie Perezís as the quiz show-obsessed girlfriend in White Men Canít Jump), and both he and Ford could have put it to much better use. Hollywood Homicide inadvertently proves that eye candy can be less interesting than believable people.

Directed by:
Ron Shelton

Starring:
Harrison Ford
Josh Hartnett
Lena Olin
Bruce Greenwood
Isaiah Washington
Lolita Davidovich
Keith David
Master P
Dwight Yoakam
Martin Landau
Gladys Knight
Lou Diamond Phillips
Kurupt
Drť

Written by:
Robert Souza
Ron Shelton

Rated:
PG-13 - Parents
Strongly Cautioned.
Some material may
be inappropriate for
children under 13.

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