Policemen take an oath to protect and serve, but in Hollywood Homicide, two Los Angeles detectives seem more interested in their moonlighting jobs than in catching the bad guys -- at least in the first part of this uneven crime comedy. Harrison Ford plays a veteran lawman with real estate sales on his mind; Josh Harnett is his young partner who teaches yoga and wants to be an actor. Unfortunately, both Ford and Hartnett have performed better in other movies, and they're saddled with a script more appropriate for a television sitcom than a full-length movie.
Still, it's the legendary Harrison Ford we're talking about, so some respect please. That magnificent face gets to me every time I see it on the big screen. All Ford has to do is turn up one side of his mouth, unleash his famous scowl, or shake his head in frustration, and I'm on his side throughout any of his flicks -- yes, even Six Days, Seven Nights. So sue me.
Hartnett (Black Hawk Down) doesn't have the same effect on me. Maybe if I were younger I'd feel differently. I realize he's quite the heartthrob with today's teenagers. Ford says his own daughter calls the young star "Josh Hotnett." And I admit Hotnett, er Hartnett, looks quite sexy teaching yoga to a group of admiring beauties in Hollywood Homicide. But I like him better as a villain. With his dark, smoldering appearance, he was perfect playing a modern-day Iago in O, the updating of Othello a couple of years ago.
Although Ford and Hartnett share a few amusing scenes, they lack the type of chemistry needed for a topnotch "buddy" movie. Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith have it in their Men in Black teaming. So do Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson in Shanghai Noon and Shanghai Knights as well as Mel Gibson and Danny Glover the Lethal Weapon series. Sadly, differences in eating habits, temperament, and moonlighting activities are not enough to do the trick for the partners Ford and Hartnett portray.
Ford describes Joe Gavilan, his character, as someone who's better at work than he is at life. "He's living on the edge, drinking a bit too much, staying up to late and in pretty desperate circumstances." On the other hand, K.C. Calden (Hartnett) takes care of himself. He even shows a spiritual side in his study of yoga. "Our two characters don't really understand each other," says Hartnett. "And that's the source of a great deal of the humor."
Director Ron Shelton (Dark Blue) claims he intended to bring something new to the buddy/cop genre. "Joe and K.C. are both detectives, but they have completely different priorities," he explains. "So you've got these multiple agendas going on while a major crime is being investigated. There's a madness, a sublime madness, as the case and their lives start to spin out of control."
While working on a high profile case involving the murder of rappers about to break into the big time, Joe and K.C. keep being interrupted by their outside interests. Joe tries to sell an old mansion to the owner of the club where the killings took place. K.C. gets into script discussions with the people he's investigating and is continuously rehearsing for A Streetcar Named Desire. It's a wonder this preoccupied duo can detect the location of the nearest donut shop (sorry, I'm writing under the influence of the film's overdone "donut" references), let alone solve a crime. But solve it they do, while learning to accept each other's contributions and eccentricities in the process.
Did I mention the chase sequence? Guess I'm trying to forget that part of the flick. It goes on and on and on as Joe and K.C. drive, bicycle, and run after the bad guys all through Hollywood, destroying everything in their path, including a "hands-in-cement" ceremony in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater. Sacrilege!
I'm also disappointed Hollywood Homicide failed to showcase the bad guys enough to arouse the hatred we love to expend on our movie villains. Isaiah Washington (Love Jones), playing an evil record entrepreneur, comes close -- but he appears only in a few scenes. Although Bruce Greenwood (Double Jeopardy) and Dwight Yoakum (Panic Room), as an Internal Affairs investigator and his willing helper, have their moments, they also show up too infrequently to make us fear and loathe them appropriately.
Like the movie's villains, women don't have much time on camera here either. Nevertheless, Lena Olin (Chocolat) steals her few scenes in the role of a yummy psychic playing up to Ford; Lolita Davidovich (Dark Blue) briefly struts her stuff as a "madam" trying to cut a deal; and Gladys Knight, in a small part as the mother of a witness, shows she can act as well as sing.
Here's a suggestion for filmmaker Shelton's next buddy/cop movie: team Ford with Rosie Perez or Hartnett with Queen Latifah. Chemistry? That's what I'm talkin' about.
(Released by Columbia Pictures and rated "PG-13" for violence, sexual situations and language.)