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Hollywood Homicide   D+

Columbia Pictures

Year Released: 2003
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Ron Shelton
Writers: Robert Souza, Ron Shelton
Cast: Harrison Ford, Josh Harntnett, Keith David, Lena Olin, Bruce Greenwood, Jamison Jones, Martin Landau, Lolita Davidovich.

Review by Rob Vaux

Harrison Ford used to be the coolest guy on the planet. Every girl wanted to be on his arm, every guy wanted buy him a beer. The heroes he portrayed were icons of cinema, tough guys with a heart who looked foolish just often enough to remind us they were human. Their names read like a mythic pantheon: Indiana Jones, Han Solo, Jack Ryan, Richard Kimble. Actors go through their entire careers praying for just one role like that, and Ford piled them up with effortless abandon. There was no question of him deserving such riches, for no one else was so at home with them. No one else could save the day like he could, no one else could say "I'm gonna kick your ass 'cause you have it coming" with such utterly perfect authority.

What the hell happened?

In the last 10 years, Ford has slowly gone from paragon to self-parody, from thundering lion to sad little mouse. His fans have stuck with him through some pretty questionable material, and lately, it looked like he might pull out of the slump (K-19 has its charms, and I'm fond of his career-bending turn in What Lies Beneath). But now comes Hollywood Homicide, a woebegone summer blockbuster that glaringly reveals all of our deepest Ford fears. The man just ain't got it anymore.

For starters, there's his pairing with costar Josh Hartnett as -- what else? -- mismatched cops. Even Gibson and Glover would be hard-pressed to make that genre work after years of sadistic overuse, and the two actors here don't have one-tenth of their chemistry. Ford plays Joe Gavilan, a hard-nosed investigator with a lengthy track record, while Hartnett's K.C. Calden is a sensitive, New Agey rookie who thinks he'd rather be an actor. You can hear the creaks and moans of formulaic thinking from the earliest scenes, the fill-in-the-numbers characterizations that spat these two out like candy bars from a vending machine. Add to that a tiresome murder case, a bevy of slumming supporting performances (including Isaiah Washington, who really needs to get a better agent), and the hopelessly trite "mean streets of Tinseltown" setting, and Hollywood Homicide soon resonates all the freshness of month-old tuna.

Beneath the surface, you can sense something more interesting trying to break free. Director Ron Shelton charges into the cliché s with such brazen aggression that you can't help but think he has better things on his mind. He seems to want to use buddy cop conventions to facilitate a satiric meditation on masculinity (much the way he used baseball in Bull Durham). But it takes well over an hour to find the right tone, hampered by a wave of horrendous stereotypes that never subsides. Gavilan and Calden bark at each other about love and money (Calden's a serious womanizer, while Gavilan struggles with a second job selling real estate) in between chasing hip-hop record executives and fending off an investigation from a scummy Internal Affairs agent (Bruce Greenwood). The dialogue is sharp sometimes, but it's strung together with very simplistic themes. Instead of sending up the genre, Shelton finds himself competing with it, struggling to bring the good stuff to bear amid the tiresome cops-and-robbers banter. Ford matches the material like onions on a sundae, and it's all Hartnett can do to register a viable presence. (Ironically, in a film full of guys, it's a girl who shines the brightest: Lena Olin, wonderfully mischievous as Gavilan's radio psychic lover.)

The extended finale picks things up a bit, as the bad guys make a run for it and our two heroes end up in hot pursuit. Shelton finally finds his focus here, and delivers some very funny sequences just as Ford hits a comfortably grumpy groove. But by then, the trite conventions and raging disappointments have piled up too high, leaving us unwilling to fight for a few crumbs of modest entertainment. Indiana Jones would be hard-pressed to save a film like Hollywood Homicide, and he's nowhere to be seen. More's the pity. That Ford deserves better goes without saying. The trouble is that Hartnett deserves better. So does Shelton. So do Washington, Greenwood and Olin... and so do we.

Review published 06.15.2003.

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