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Hollywood Homicide (2003) Print E-mail
Friday, 13 June 2003
“Hollywood Homicide” is a rather fluffy buddy cop movie made fairly entertaining by both the personnel involved and the fact that, for once, the high concept is actually a decent comedic notion. The movie feels like an ‘80s venture in the sense that director Ron Shelton and his co-writer Robert Souza exude an easy confidence that what they’re doing works and trust the audience to enjoy the ride. For the most part, we do.

“Hollywood Homicide,” which could hardly feel more different than Shelton’s other recent look at the LAPD, “Dark Blue,” riffs on the premise that many L.A. cops have second jobs, often ones that don’t relate to law enforcement. If the gag never gets quite as outrageous or as intricate as it could be, it still provides a lot of solid comic fodder.

Harrison Ford plays Joe Gavilan, a veteran LAPD homicide detective who has a sideline as, of all things, a realtor for residential properties. Joe’s day job currently calls for him to investigate a club shoot-‘em-up that left four people dead, but he’s juggling the case with his efforts to unload a pricey house before his tax situation grows dire. His business irregularities – along with a personal grudge held by an Internal Affairs officer (Bruce Greenwood) – have made Joe the subject of an investigation himself, which he resents.

Meanwhile, Joe’s younger partner K.C. Calden (Josh Hartnett) supplements his own income by teaching yoga while nurturing his dream of becoming an actor. In best laid-back L.A. fashion – and in pleasing defiance of buddy cop conventions – Joe and K.C. actually get along with one another fairly well, even though each sees the other as rather eccentric.

As Joe and K.C. look into the club killings, the audience – more than the nose-to-the-ground characters – will detect strong suggestions of (real-life) rapper murder scenarios. At the same time, Joe urges the uncertain K.C. that the younger man ought to look into the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of K.C.’s police detective father.

The story relies a bit more than is wise on coincidence, but watching Ford – who is vital, engaged and very funny here – switching gears from Joe’s dour cop persona to energized, eager-to-please salesman and back is a consistent treat. Hartnett doesn’t quite find the same through-line between K.C.’s on-duty vigilance and his off-duty Zen cheeriness, but he still handles the gags well, especially when his character is onstage, miming the handling of scenery that isn’t there. Lena Olin is knowingly sexy as a radio psychic who gives Joe something to look forward to in the evenings, Greenwood is appropriately venomous and Isaiah Washington is so good that he gets us to buy the improbable lack of caution in his music exec baddie.

The cast (fittingly, for a film set involved in the music scene) is full of musicians in roles that range in size from supporting to cameo. Dwight Yoakam (laconically perfect as an ex-cop hitman), Dr. Dre, Kurupt, Gladys Knight and Smokey Robinson are some of the faces that show up here. Lou Diamond Phillips, Eric Idle and Martin Landau also provide good moments.

Sound is fine, starting with some bracing effects on a firing range, with Joe finally taking pity on K.C.’s appalling marksmanship and surreptitiously drilling his target for him. The massacre in the nightclub does a wonderful job of mixing ambience in with the whine of the guns firing and bullet impacts. Car impacts and explosions are heart-jarring, which bodes well for the results in a home theater environment.

The soundtrack bounces with rap and hip-hop, with an especially frisky track accompanying a car-and-foot chase through L.A.’s Venice canal area, but there are a couple of older selections as well. Ford’s Joe blisses out, dancing solo to “Tracks of My Tears” (complete with subtle but believable LP scratchiness) and there’s a seduction scene set to “Heaven Must Have Sent You.”

“Hollywood Homicide” doesn’t demand much, and it would have been nice if the B plot about K.C.’s father were a little less convenient in its particulars. Even so, it has a lot of stretches of sheer good fun, which is reason enough to recommend it.

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