Worth A Look: 6.78%
Just Average: 28.81%
Pretty Crappy: 23.73%
4 reviews, 35 user ratings
by Erik Childress
Hollywood Homicide is a mess, but in its own kind of way. Which sounds like a back-handed compliment, but its also a rather general one since it's not the kind of mess to be expected when viewing the ads. One week it's the grumpy veteran teamed up with the new-age, wet-behind-the-ears youngster. The next it's a wacky mismatched buddy comedy. Now it's a tense thriller with an L.A. Confidential slant set against the backdrop of gangsta rappin' with hardcore action. When the marketers can't decide what the film is, what would YOU expect when the lights go out?It was surprising at first, not only to see a cast list scroll by that would put Irwin Allen to shame, but that director and co-writer Ron Shelton was clearly going for something beyond the "wackiness ensues" mantra that would normally accompany a film like this when one of the partners was Martin Lawrence or (these days) Eddie Murphy. Then again, it shouldn't have surprised me considering that Shelton has been behind some of the sharpest scripts of the last 15 years. Making his living covering nearly every aspect of the sports world (Bull Durham, White Men Can't Jump, Tin Cup - to name just a few), Shelton moved into new terrain with the incredibly underappreciated Kurt Russell cop drama, Dark Blue, from earlier this year and the early scenes of Hollywood Homicide clearly show Shelton's touch for character.
"A Surprisingly Ambitious Kind Of Mess"
Harrison Ford is Joe Gavilan, a veteran detective who like many cops in the department moonlite to supplement their income. Joe's racket is real estate, which he picked up thanks to a training seminar that taught its clients to buy-and-sell their way up the pyramid to financial wealth. Joe's partner is K.C. Calden (Josh Hartnett) who doesn't have any of Joe's cop chops and would rather be acting in A Streetcar Named Desire than as a real-life detective. The pair are put in charge of a club shoot-up where an up-and-coming rap group was taken out. There's some suspicion that it may lead to ex-con-turned-record-producer Sartain (Isaiah Washington) but nothing conclusive except to the audience who is aware he's behind it all.
That's enough for any movie to lie flat on its lightweight laurels or to springboard into more interesting tales about a cop's life amidst the fame and glamour. On a simplistic scale, the plot isn't that far removed from the Diceman's Adventures of Ford Fairlane. To capitalize on their own take of the Suge Knight controversy and involved police corruption would have elevated the material to the same sort of moralistic allegory that Shelton had working the Rodney King trial in Dark Blue. But Hollywood Homicide likely succumbed to an editor under house arrest from the studio to tighten up the story until we're left with more unresolved plot threads than The Sopranos. Take for example:
(1) Bennie Macko (Bruce Greenwood) is an internal affairs officer investigating Gavilan for "co-mingling of funds." He keeps interrupting the plot looking for hard evidence, but what are his real motives? Does he have any other than just doing his job?
(2) Lena Olin is a psychic radio show host involved with Gavilan who shows up to offer a little spice into his life. She also happens to be Macko's ex-wife. Could this be his hidden motive for hounding Gavilan? Not when he's unaware of the tryst until he's shown pictures. I don't want to even get into how Olin's psychic network powers help Gavilan and Calden show up at just the right time to start an unfounded chase scene, but more on that later.
(3) Lolita Davidovich is a Heidi Fleiss-like madam whom Gavilan was using as an informant on a case he was involved in before the movie began. She has evidence for him if he gets her a pardon. Clearly there was more to this in a longer cut, but in its present stasis should have been amputated altogether.
(4) Dwight Yoakam is a business partner of Sartain's with police ties who vows to help orchestrate the direction in which Gavilan's case goes.
(5) Lou Diamond Phillips as a vice cop in drag. 'Nuff said.
(6) Calden has never discovered what really happened when his father was shot in the line of duty thanks to a sealed FBI report.
(7) Gavilan is working his broker skills to orchestrate a deal involving the house he's got all his money tied up in, a Hollywood producer (Martin Landau) looking to unload his and a rapper (Master P) looking to buy.
(8) The chase. It must be included in this list since it's a climactic one that not only goes on forever but seems to matriculate out of thin air as if it's in a movie all by itself. Up until the film's final 20 minutes, any action we've seen is rather humorous, or actually not, like the back-and-forth scurry to capture a former Motown singer's boy. It's Gladys Knight. Don't ask. Regardless, under psychic guidance, Gavilan and Calden run towards Sartain's car. There's been no suggestion that Sartain is to fear arrest. They have no warrant. He's a powerful record producer who should have a lawyer able to kibosh this shakedown with a phone call. So what does Sartain and his boys do. Run and start shooting. I guess if that's the rap world's image, run with it. But not into one of the most poorly edited chase sequences in long-term memory. After many memorable chases in 3 Star Wars & Indiana Jones films (and a fourth on the way), 2 Jack Ryan flicks, Blade Runner and The Fugitive, this is reason enough for Ford to disassociate himself with Hollywood Homicide.
Some of these threads crash into each other, but none in a creative way and mostly just weave in-and-out of the story on a moment's notice. The real estate deal is played for laughs and get most of them, but it can never mesh with the loose-fitting attempts at action and police procedural. What does payoff never has any set-up and vice versa. As a comedy, Ford and Hartnett have some fun when they're playing cops who want to be doing something else. It's when they actually play cops does the film never find its footing.
That's abundantly clear after the first half when the editors lost sight of the film themselves and tried to satisfy everything to the point where Ford and Hartnett look completely lost at where to go next. OK, Hartnett always looks like that, but it's rampantly disheartening to watch Ford acquit himself in a movie the way he does on talk shows. Ford has proven himself with light comedy even in the most serious of moments and you can see that ray of interest in the material when he gets to stray from the plot(s).Hollywood Homicide is a bad film. But bad in that overreaching, overedited kind of way. It's hard to blame the participants since any preconceived notions are the cynical musings of someone being sold a worn-out product. Ron Shelton has higher aspirations than just selling popcorn. He's not unaccustomed to missing with his stories (Play It to the Bone) but when he was writing sports stories, you could always believe that he was following the old screenwriter mantra of "writing what you know." Dark Blue was scripted by L.A. Confidential's James Ellroy and Training Day's David Ayer. Shelton's got the co-reigns this time around with former LAPD detective-turned-debut-screenwriter Robert Souza. If you're going to venture into unchartered waters, its smart to keep good company when you try to make a few waves behind all the boats that sailed before yours. Just don't sail out into fog. Time will tell if the blame for Hollywood Homicide should fall at Shelton's door. Perhaps this will continue a new trend for his work and we can decide later if he's suited up for this duty with future projects like Illinois Indiscretion and Jerusalem Jurisdiction.
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originally posted: 06/13/03 01:06:05