Hollywood Homicide



USA 2003 : Ron SHELTON : 115 mins

Hollywood Homicide is a comedy-thriller cop movie that’s neither especially comic nor ever very thrilling, stretched over a rather long two hours. It’s barely recognisable as the work of Ron Shelton – about the only things it has in common with his other 2003 release, Dark Blue, is that both films are about a pair of cops in Los Angeles. David Ayer’s script for Dark Blue had the benefit of being based on a story by James Ellroy – this time Shelton himself is credited with the screenplay, along with veteran LAPD officer Robert Souza.

On this evidence, Souza should stick to his rather less well-paid day-job – although, to be fair, Hollywood Homicide does have the whiff of a project fatally compromised by studio interference, most notably in the strenuous efforts made to remain within the family-friendly confines of the PG-13 certificate (equivalent to the UK’s 12A). These efforts are damagingly apparent right from the opening scene – a confusing nightclub shootout in which nobody is actually shown being shot, though we’re later told that there were four fatalities.

Heading the ensuing investigation are grizzled old-school detective Joe Gavilan (Harrison Ford) and his much younger side-kick K C Calden (Josh Hartnett). Both have plenty of time to pursue extra-curricular activities alongside their cop work: Gavilan is struggling real-estate agent; Calden a yoga tutor with aspirations to act. Needless to say – this being a cop movie – both are mavericks whose methods annoy their straight-arrow superiors, and bed-hopping lotharios with complicated love-lives.

In fact, so squarely do Shelton and Souza adhere to the most cobwebbed cliches of the buddy-cop genre – they even shamelessly have K C seeking to avenge the death of his late LAPD-officer dad – that you begin to suspect it’s all some kind of joshing spoof. Perhaps this was partly the intention at an early stage in the script’s development – only the most charitable viewer could regard this mess as any kind of knowing parody.

Laughs are in short supply – though not entirely absent. Monty Python star Eric Idle pops up as a ‘celebrity’ who’s being dragged into the police station, wailing “I’ve never had to pay for sex – I’ve had four BAFTA nominations!” It’s a funny line – but Idle never reappears: it turns out he’s just one of a stack of pointless star cameos from the likes of Lou Diamond Phillips, Gladys Knight and Robert Wagner. Can somebody please explain why Smokey Robinson, of all people, should turns up in the middle of the climactic chase as a penny-pinching cab driver?

Perhaps such gimmicks are supposed to distract us from what is a very clumsily handled finale to a very clumsily handled movie. As Ford and Hartnett pursue fleeing bad-guys Isaiah Washington and Dwight Yoakam (both wasted, just like Bruce Greenwood as an oily I.A. officer), TV helicopers vie for air-space above with police choppers, and one of the airborne journalists is heard to remark “I’ve never seen such drama in Hollywood before!” As a hostage to fortune, it takes some beating – but is topped by K C’s admission “I don’t know if I’m much of an actor, Joe”: a dangerous comment indeed to put into the mouth of Hartnett, who’s seldom been noted for his thespian skills.

Then again, it’s hard to be too critical of Hartnett or Ford – the simple fact is that neither have any of the comic flair needed for their characters’ high-jinks here. And we can’t blame the actors for the script’s many absurdities. Worst of all is a dual-interrogation scene where Gavilan and Calden are quizzed in adjoining rooms by internal affairs officers: Gavilan fields incessant calls on real-estate business, while K C goes into full-tilt yogic meditation mode and even sorts out his interrogator’s back problems. Ineptly written, edited and directed, the scene manages to embarrass everyone concerned, including the hapless performers – and the audience.

26th August, 2003
(seen same day : Warner Village, Newcastle-upon-Tyne)

by Neil Young