Buddy cop movies are nothing new in the world of cinema; there are
at least a dozen major ones each year, a middling few the least bit
interchangeable with the others. Usually, but not always, the pairing
is of the odd couple variety, mixing different races and ethnicities
to garner laughs (i.e. Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan in the "Rush Hour"
series, or Martin Lawrence and Steve Zahn in 2003's "National Security").
Directed by Ron Shelton (2003's "Dark Blue"), "Hollywood Homicide"
is one of the smarter buddy cop flicks to come around in some time,
if only because the comedy is slick and original and does not rely
on the differing ages of 60-year-old Harrison Ford (2002's "K-19:
The Widowmaker") and 24-year-old Josh Hartnett (2002's "40 Days and
40 Nights") as the major source of its laughs. The conventions of
the plot are still a little moldy around the edges, and some of the
narrative is needlessly complicated and muddled, but at its heart
is a veritably delightful and likable duo that mesh surprisingly well with each other.
Veteran Joe Gavilan (Harrison Ford) and rookie K.C. Calden (Josh Hartnett)
are LAPD homicide detectives working together on the double-murder
of rap musicians in a trendy nightclub. Soon, the two deaths becomes
four as their apparent murderers are also found dead and burnt to
a crisp. As Joe and K.C. dig further into the investigation, Joe finds
himself warding off an unnecessary internal affairs inspection, while
aspiring actor K.C. struggles to rehearse for his lead role in a stage
production of "A Streetcar Named Desire."
If a viewer is unsure whether "Hollywood Homicide" is a straight thriller
or a comedy, their query will be answered within the opening five
minutes when Joe and K.C. seem more concerned with their hamburger
dressings than the crime scene they are working at. Written by Ron
Shelton and Robert Souza, the film is sharp-witted and, on occasion,
even zany, no less than during the climactic high-speed chase through
Hollywood. As Joe and K.C. weave through traffic, come dangerously
close to getting severely injured, and ultimately crash their car,
Joe desperately uses a child's bike (complete with decorative balloons)
as his transportation, while K.C. hijacks a family's car and explains
the nature of life and death to the sniveling children in the back-seat.
Later, Joe, who works in real estate on the side, anxiously closes
a deal on his cell phone as he chases a violent convict through an office building.
For all of its clever asides and good-natured humor, "Hollywood Homicide"
is weakest when it is directly dealing with the particulars of its
story. There are a few too many subplots that break off from the main
storyline, confusing rather than enriching the narrative. And because
it is learned by the viewer (but not by Joe and K.C.) who the killers
are right from the beginning, it drains any sort of suspense or rooting
interest that might have been generated from the central investigation.
Fortunately, the characters are more interesting and fun to watch
than the plot is, anyway. In a rare comedic role, Harrison Ford lets
loose as the easy-going, terminally put-upon Joe Gavilan, garnering
many of the movie's biggest laughs with his sly comic delivery. Ford
hasn't been this genuinely good in several years. As woman-magnet
K.C. Calden, who dreams of quitting the police force and becoming
a full-time thespian, Josh Hartnett is a dynamite partner for Ford,
so much more natural and winning than Paul Walker in this week's "2
Fast 2 Furious" that it just goes to show a really fine young actor
from a weak one. As Ford's psychic love interest, Lena Olin (2002's
"Queen of the Damned") is frisky and memorable in an underwritten part.
"Hollywood Homicide" is an entertaining diversion, mostly due to Harrison
Ford and Josh Hartnett's camaraderie and the comedic sincerity they
bring to their roles. Meanwhile, the plot is expendable and the supporting
actors (filled out with everyone from Martin Landau to Lolita Davidovich
to rappers Master P and Kurupt to country singer Dwight Yoakam to
Lou Diamond Phillips as a drag queen) are colorful but wasted. What
one is left with is a solid, undemanding experience that doesn't offer
much in the way of substance, but remains satisfying. You may not
think too much about "Hollywood Homicide" the second the end credits
have begun to roll, but you will not be able to deny the fun you had while it lasted.
Copyright © 2003 Dustin Putman