Hollywood Homicide isn’t the worst cop-buddy movie of the year — that distinction goes to National Security — but at least you can understand Steve Zahn taking National Security. What’s Harrison Ford’s excuse?
As undistinguished and unmemorable as any film in recent memory, Hollywood Homicide is the kind of film that you might wonder that anyone thought worth making, if you gave it any thought at all. The only thing that makes this particular film worth noting is the melancholy milestone it marks in the career of the man who was once Hollywood’s biggest star: It has now been a full decade since Harrison Ford took on a role worth caring about.
Ten years. That’s how long it’s been since The Fugitive. True, he reprised his Jack Ryan role for Clear and Present Danger, a respectable enough political thriller. And there was Air Force One, which was at least entertaining, in a modest Die-Hard ripoff sort of way. But neither was a movie I’d go out of my way to see again. And look at the other side of the balance sheet: Sabrina; The Devil’s Own; Six Days Seven Nights; Random Hearts; What Lies Beneath; K-19: The Widowmaker.
And now Hollywood Homicide, perhaps the lamest, limpest entry of the lot — a movie so completely lacking in inspiration that one wonders not only why anyone thought it was worth making, but even what they thought they were making in the first place.
It’s a police procedural that doesn’t care about police procedure (odd, since first-time screenwriter Robert Souza was an LAPD detective for 25 years), a crimebuster that doesn’t care about the crime, or busting it. If it’s a comedy, I laughed more at the thoroughly mediocre I Spy and Bad Company, and if it’s an action flick, I found the same two flicks more entertaining on that count too. Ditto as buddy movies, and, oh, and I cared more about the stories too. The climaxes of all three pictures are about equally hackneyed and implausible — and to give you an idea of what that means, Bad Company ended with a defusing-the-bomb red-wire / blue-wire scene, and I Spy ended with a fight scene on a suspension bridge that required both heroes to suddenly be much stupider than they had been for most of the movie.
Hollywood Homicide does have a few funny moments here and there. In Hollywood, apparently, everyone has two or more jobs; detective Joe Gavilan (Ford) moonlights in real estate, while his partner K. C. Calden (Josh Hartnett, Black Hawk Down) teaches yoga to bodacious babes and wants to go into acting.
This leads to scenes with Gavilan discussing real estate on his cell phone at inappropriate moments, and Calden, well, doing yoga at inappropriate moments, as well as performing scenes from A Streetcar Named Desire. No, really, these are the funny bits, I promise.
Gavilan and Calden both have affairs, Gavilan with a radio psychic (Lena Olin) and Calden with a parade of anonymous beauties whom he presumably meets through his yoga class, none of whom seem to mind that he can’t remember their names. (In one scene, he comes home to unexpectedly find a naked woman in his hot tub, and when he gets her name wrong she smiles, “Close enough.”)
Naturally, K. C. and his yoga class attract only uniformly gorgeous young women, a shallow fantasy conceit that made me think how much funnier it was in Minority Report when hunky cop Tom Cruise was kissed by peppery old Lois Smith and squeezed by a black-market surgical nurse with an alarming mole on her face. (I was also reminded of a Reader’s Digest anecdote about a young man rethinking a lingerie-shop job application upon receiving this reality check: “Most of our customers don’t look like the women in lingerie catalogs, but more like your mother.”)
The long, long chase scene that’s suddenly randomly tacked onto the last half-hour of the film provides a couple of funny sight gags, though its main humor value lies in the 60-year-old Ford energetically chasing down and fighting to a standstill a man half his age. At least they’re both exhausted toward the end, before the unnecessarily brutal finale. That makes it more plausible than what happens at the end of Hartnett’s chase scene.
The plot, to use the term loosely, is an assemblage of clichés, from the bad internal-affairs cop (Bruce Greenwood) with a vendetta against another cop to the young hero avenging his father’s murder and proving that the old man died a hero. Characters and plot points drift randomly in and out of the story, serving no purpose; the movie throws in a vice cop in drag, a Hollywood madam who’s a potential informant (Lolita Davidovich), and a history between Gavilan’s nemesis in internal affairs and his radio-psychic girlfriend, all to no particular purpose. The killings with which the story begins are explained, sort of, but after absorbing the explanation we aren’t asked to think about it ever again.
A rare cop-buddy movie in which neither partner is black, Hollywood Homicide injects hip-hop flava by making the alleged plot about the execution-style killing of an up-and-coming rap group, and finds supporting roles for Isaiah Washington (Exit Wounds) and rappers Master P and Kurupt (the soundtrack features Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg). Unfortunately, the movie ultimately cares more about Gavilan’s real-estate deal and Calden’s big stage scene than about bringing the rap-group killers to justice.
Quo vadis Harrison Ford? A fourth Indiana Jones film, an embarrassing postscript to a classic pulp franchise? More forgettable romantic comedies and lame action movies? How sad to see the man who, in a remarkable sixteen-year period, was Han Solo, Jack Ryan, Richard Kimble (The Fugitive), John Book (Witness), and Rick Deckard (Blade Runner), reduced to this.
2003, Columbia. Directed by Ron Shelton. Harrison Ford, Josh Hartnett, Lena Olin, Keith David, Bruce Greenwood, Martin Landau, Lolita Davidovich, Dwight Yoakam, Isaiah Washington.
US Conference of Catholic Bishops: A-IV, Adult with Reservations
Sometimes deadly violence; depictions of casual affairs with a couple of bedroom scenes (no explicit nudity); sexual references; references to multiple divorces and remarriages; frequent profanity, crude language, and an instance of obscenity.
Overall Recommendability: D + (Strongly Discouraged)
Artistic & Entertainment Value: 1 ½ stars (out of four) – Between Weak and Mediocre
Moral and Spiritual Value: Problematic
Appropriate Audience: Adults
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Steven D. Greydanus does film criticism for a variety of media. He is the webmaster of the Decent Films Guide website.
(c) 2003 Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved. Used by permission.