Ron Shelton’s 2003 effort, “Hollywood Homicide” is just so…Hollywood. It’s a big-budget film starring two A-list actors when a low to moderate budget and B-list actors would have done the job just as well. Certainly the writing by ex-cop Robert Souza and director Shelton isn’t strong enough for such an expenditure of resources, and it’s only because “Homicide” is “so Hollywood” that it will spend $1 million on a scene when $1,000 would do. The film is chock full of Hollywood in-jokes, the type of gags only .1% of the general moviegoer will even “get”, and the big ending set piece makes everything that came before it irrelevant. Like I said — it’s just so Hollywood.
Harrison Ford (“Air Force One”) headlines as Joe Gavilan, a Homicide cop in the Hollywood Division; Joe is a slightly younger and better dressed version of Peter Falk’s Columbo. Joe is cranky and up to his ears in bills and an Internal Affairs investigation run by scummy I.A. cop Bruce Greenwood, whose psychic girlfriend Joe happens to be sleeping with. Joe’s partner is K.C. Calden (Josh Hartnett), whom one suspects became a cop by way of a misdirected effort to please his deceased father, a cop killed in the line of duty. What K.C. really wants to do is act. In-between murder calls, K.C. teaches yoga and has sex with hot women whose names he can’t remember.
Obviously I’ve just gone two paragraphs without mentioning the plot of “Homicide”, and it’s no accident. What’s the point? Just as the gratuitous and unnecessarily expensive final action sequence nips the film’s triple murder investigation into one neat bundle, the investigation itself is nothing more than background noise. Shelton and company is more concern with the quirky habits and personal tribulations of his two leading men. For instance, Joe has a second job as a real estate agent and the film is much more entertaining when we watch the desperate Joe attempt to broker a deal between a rapper (Mater P) and a has-been movie producer (Martin Landau).
Similarly, it’s more interesting to follow K.C.’s attempts to learn his lines for “A Streetcar Named Desire” than it is to watch the cop duo questioning rapping mogul Isaiah Washington (“Romeo Must Die”) or tracking down ex-cop/country singer Dwight Yoakam (“Panic Room”), who is making a terrific second career out of playing oddball villains. Even the teaming of the young and studly Hartnett (“Pearl Harbor”) and the venerable veteran Ford reminds one of the teaming of the young and studly Brad Pitt and the venerable veteran Robert Redford in “Spy Game”. A passing of the torch, if you will.
The script for “Hollywood Homicide” hits its mark when it goes for Hollywood inside gags and sly humor. The whole thing becomes tedious whenever the murder investigation or Bruce Greenwood re-enters the picture. Mostly an afterthought, the triple homicide is less interesting than watching Joe try to convince new girlfriend Lena Olin (“Darkness”) that she doesn’t have psychic powers. Which isn’t to say the movie’s one big action set piece, a lengthy car chase followed by some lengthy gunplay and fisticuff, isn’t entertaining. It is. It’s just not all that important.
For Ron Shelton, “Hollywood Homicide” is an odd movie. Known primarily as the man who made golf interesting with “Tin Cup” and other sports movies, Shelton has done two cop movies about L.A. Detectives in a row. The first was “Dark Blue”, which was a more realistic and gritty film. “Homicide” doesn’t have a single serious bone in its body, and in its own way, it’s just as good as “Blue”. But it’s probably inappropriate to compare the two films, as they’re so vastly different in tone and style.
“Hollywood Homicide” is an entertaining, oftentimes clever, sometimes offbeat, and mostly enjoyable movie. Its slick Hollywood background is apparent, and the talent is there to showcase the script’s stronger elements. It’s too bad that it has so little else to offer. As a movie, “Homicide” is good, but one can’t help but be slightly irritated that it never bothers to offer anything beyond the usual Buddy Cop formula.
Ron Shelton (director) / Ron Shelton, Robert Souza (screenplay)
CAST: Harrison Ford …. Joe Gavilan
Josh Hartnett …. K.C. Calden
Lena Olin …. Ruby
Bruce Greenwood …. Lt. Bennie Macko
Lolita Davidovich …. Cleo Ricard
Keith David …. Leon