Hollywood Homicide

Movie Information

Genre: Action Comedy
Director: Ron Shelton
Starring: Harrison Ford, Josh Hartnett, Lena Olin, Keith David, Martin Landau
Rated: PG-13

reviewed by Ken Hanke

Yeah, it’s pretty bad, though not unwatchably so.

Hollywood Homicide is not without its entertainment value, though a lot of that comes in the form of “What were they thinking?” It’s easy to see why this film went down badly with test audiences; what’s maybe not so easy to figure is what this movie must have been like before the filmmakers remonkeyed it into its present form. Could it have been any more of a mess than what will arrive on theater screens on Friday? What a mind-boggling consideration.

The whole problem comes down to the screenplay by director Ron Shelton and former LAPD detective Robert Souza. It’s a bizarre mish-mash of way too many undercooked ideas encased in the most boringly by-the-numbers plot imaginable. The setup is Cop-Buddy Picture 101, with Harrison Ford as the veteran officer and Josh Hartnett as his rookie partner. Now, it’s not going to come as a huge shock that Hartnett’s character dreams of being something other than a cop. It’s not even surprising that he’s really an actor (see Eddie Murphy in Showtime). In fact, that’s not a horrible premise for a movie called Hollywood Homicide since Tinseltown is probably the biggest repository of people doing whatever job they’re doing until they “get their big break.” Granted, jumping through all the hoops to get to the level of police detective is a pretty extreme variant on this, but let that slide, since it pales in comparison to making Ford’s veteran cop a wannabe real-estate entrepreneur in the bargain.

Ford apparently knew he was in a stinker since he didn’t even bother to learn his lines properly (he can’t remember whether the white elephant of a house he’s trying to unload is in Mount Olympus or Mount Olympic). It’s easy to understand his ennui. As if this isn’t already too much sub-plotting, we also have to deal with Hartnett’s character moonlighting as a yoga instructor. And just in case that doesn’t clutter the plot sufficiently, we also have Hartnett out to uncover his cop father’s murder, while Ford is romancing the psychic (a character trait that comes out of nowhere) ex-girlfriend (Lena Olin) of the Internal Affairs investigator (Bruce Greenwood) who is trying to hang him out to dry.

Believe it or not, there’s actually even more excess baggage in the plot than this — including an array of cameos for Eric Idle, Gladys Knight and Lou Diamond Phillips (the last in drag) — but that gives you a fair idea that Hollywood Homicide is a good three hours of story crammed into less than two hours of screen time. Somewhere in all this is a conventional murder plot that has delusions of being a mystery that is, unfortunately, not all that mysterious (the trailer gives it away, for God’s sake!). Yet it feels for all the world like the mystery was yet another plot tangent that got altered in reshooting.

Rather than try to make any sense out of the various story lines, Shelton loads the film with often incomprehensible and tediously overlong chases. And while some of these have clever moments (there’s a great use of the canal streets in Venice, Calif.), they go on so long that you lose interest.

You’ve got a pretty lame cop thriller on your hands when its most exciting aspect is whether or not Ford is going to sell Martin Landau’s house! The only redeeming thing here is that its cast has enough innate charm to keep it from quite sinking. Unfortunately, saying that the movie doesn’t quite sink isn’t the most glowing recommendation I can think of. Alas, it’s the best I can say for Hollywood Homicide.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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