In a land of blue skies, palm trees and dead bodies, a veteran police detective and his fresh-faced partner are more interested in their side jobs than in the high-profile gangland-style murder they are currently investigating.
An eloquent and, at times, funny flick, Hollywood Homicide stars Harrison Ford as veteran police detective and part-time real estate agent Joe Gavilan, who is having a hard time making ends meet. Josh Hartnett plays his tyro partner K.C. Calden, who moonlights as a yoga instructor with tinsel dreams of becoming an actor. The cop duo has been assigned to the high-profile gangland-style murder of two up-and-coming rappers, but these Hollywood homicide detectives can't seem to stay focused on the investigation. Joe, for instance, is too busy trying to unload a multimillion-dollar mansion, while K.C. is focused on memorizing lines from A Streetcar Named Desire. The scenes in which Joe and K.C. exchange dry and witty repartee are by far the pic's most entertaining, especially the one in which Joe is busy making a sales pitch on his cell phone during the film's one high-speed chase. The studio, however, is touting this movie as a fast-paced comedy, which could disappoint moviegoers expecting a laugh-a-minute actioner in the vein of Lethal Weapon. While the story has a few genuinely funny moments, the movie crawls along like rush-hour traffic on the 405.
The most pleasant thing this slow-paced comedy has going for it is its two stars, Ford and Hartnett. Ford (K-19: The Widowmaker) sometimes looks a little put out in the movie's more physical sequences (his stunt double in some of the shots was also a bit too obvious), but the 60-year-old actor does the surly old cop routine pretty well. As his partner, Hartnett (40 Days and 40 Nights) does his usual goofy thing, which actually suits this character, a sweet and naïve cop who unwittingly makes women weak in the knees. The script, written by Ron Shelton and Robert Souza, has some vivid dialogue and the banter between K.C. and Joe is amusing to watch. In addition to Ford and Hartnett, the film has a great cast of supporting stars, including Lena Olin, Lolita Davidovich, Martin Landau and Lou Diamond Phillips--who appears in full drag as an undercover cop posing as a prostitute. There are also some surprising cameos by music legends Gladys Knight, Dwight Yoakam and Smokey Robinson, as well as by some newer faces on the block including Master P and Kurupt. The film's only chase scene even interrupts actor Robert Wagner's Hollywood Walk of Fame star-unveiling ceremony.
Writer/director Shelton demonstrated with Bull Durham and, to a lesser degree, White Men Can't Jump, that he has a knack for character-driven scripts. The interaction between Ford and Hartnett makes his latest pic worth watching. (When the spiritual K.C. asks how Joe managed to track him down at a yoga class and gets a sarcastic ''I'm psychic'' response from his materialistic partner, his dumbfounded reaction is, ''Really?'') But while Hollywood Homicide starts strongly with sympathetic characters and an intriguing story line, it ultimately loses track of its own genre: it's not funny enough to be labeled a buddy comedy, not climactic enough to be a drama and lacks the movement needed to be tagged an actioner. The jokes, for example, are often interrupted by bloody shootings or autopsy scenes, the dramatic plot takes a back seat to the comedy shtick, and action sequences are too sloppily edited to buy into. Shelton shot the film entirely in Los Angeles--a change of pace from Toronto or Vancouver-- and there is some nice footage here, including a kooky scene in which a suspect runs from the cops using a peddle boat through a shallow Venice Beach canal. It's a pity that funny moments like this one are few and far between.
Ron Shelton's Hollywood Homicide is such a mixed bag of genres that not even the high-profile stars, star-studded cameos or vivid dialogue can inject momentum into this lazy comedy.