Hollywood Homicide

Hollywood Homicide looks dangerously close to the sort of high-concept “levity” that Sylvester Stallone engaged in — remember Oscar and Stop Or My Mom Will Shoot, or have you suppressed the memories? — when he figured out that nobody much wanted him as an action hero any more. Harrison Ford has been altogether too grim in recent years (in his flop K-19 he went so far as to adopt a Russian accent), so the movie feels like penance, his way of showing the suits that he can still crack a smile and goof around. I never thought I’d see the day when Kurt Russell (who certainly deserved it) got the lead in a serious Ron Shelton movie (Dark Blue) and Ford starred in a Ron Shelton comedy, but there he is.

Shelton, who wrote the script with Robert Souza, seems to approach the movie as Dark Blue Lite. Once again we have a grizzled California detective (Ford) paired off with a rookie (Josh Hartnett here); once again the theme of cop fathers and cop sons is explored. I can’t say why Shelton has temporarily (one hopes) abandoned the genre he has all to himself — the intelligent minor-league-sports movie (Bull Durham, White Men Can’t Jump, Tin Cup) — in favor of cop films, but what works in Dark Blue also works in Hollywood Homicide. Shelton knows how weary men talk to each other, and he knows the importance of sharp women in their lives. The unstable camaraderie of cops, for Shelton, is not so different from the bond between athletes.

Still, this is going to go down as one of the lesser films in the portfolios of Shelton, Ford, and most everyone else involved. The mystery of what possessed Shelton to cast Lou Diamond Phillips as a undercover cop posing as a hooker named Wanda is eclipsed only by the mystery of what possessed Phillips to take the role (maybe he’s doing penance). Smart beauties like Lena Olin (as Ford’s psychic-hotline girlfriend, whose precog skills come in handy) and Shelton regular Lolita Davidovich aren’t given much to work with; this is a jostling boys’-room comedy, wherein odd couple Ford and Hartnett try to solve a hip-hop murder while deflecting the best efforts of skunky Internal Affairs honcho Bruce Greenwood (who’s going to become the next William Atherton if he isn’t careful) to boot Ford off the force.

Only in a movie are cop partners so ostentatiously different from each other. It goes beyond a generation gap: Ford’s a no-nonsense, steak-and-beer guy who brokers real-estate deals on the side; Hartnett watches his diet and has his own sideline as a yoga instructor and aspiring actor. As an only-in-Hollywood portrait of detectives, this sort of makes sense, but there’s little evidence of any mutual respect or affection between the two. Ford interacts better with pros like Keith David as a fellow cop or Martin Landau as a music producer who worked with some of the Motown greats Ford loves (the best bit in the movie is when Ford gets home from his two jobs and sways to “Tracks of My Tears”).

Hollywood Homicide uses its milieu for some amusing cameos (look, there’s Frank Sinatra Jr. as a lawyer! Hey, that’s a Monty Python alumnus getting busted for solicitation!), and there’s some perverse pleasure in seeing Ford, Landau, and hip-hop artist Master P sharing the same table. The movie is harmless and sometimes funny (I laughed out loud at Hartnett’s crash course in Zen delivered to a couple of dismayed kids), with dialogue sharper than that of the average American comedy, but it devolves into the expected car chase and shoot-outs, and feels more than anything like the pilot episode of a mid-season hour-long comedy-drama on CBS. As for Harrison Ford, maybe it’s time for him to cut to the chase and do something small like Stallone’s Cop Land. It might not work for him, as it didn’t really work for Stallone (who fell back into action cheese), but at least it would nudge him out of the rut he’s been in for about fifteen years now.

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