HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE(director/writer: Ron Shelton; screenwriter: Robert Souza; cinematographer: Barry Peterson; editor: Paul Seydor; music: Alex Wurman; cast: Harrison Ford (Joe Gavilan), Josh Hartnett (K.C. Calden), Lena Olin (Ruby, Psychic), Keith David (Lieutenant Fuqua), Bruce Greenwood (Bennie Macko), Lou Diamond Phillips (Wanda), Lolita Davidovich (Cleo, prostitute/informant), Martin Landau (Jerry Duran, Producer), Dwight Yoakam (Leroy Wasley), Master P (Club Owner, Julius Armas), Isaiah Washington (Antoine Sartain), Bruce Greenwood (Bennie Macko), Kurupt (Rapper, K-Ro), Gladys Knight (Olivia Robidoux), Frank Sinatra Jr. (Lawyer Wheeler); Runtime: 111; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Ron Shelton/Lou Pitt; Columbia Pictures; 2003)
“A very funny spoof on the recent spate of cop thrillers who use the mismatched buddy-cop formula.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A very funny spoof on the recent spate of cop thrillers who use the mismatched buddy-cop formula. It offers a long laundry list of familiar plot devices including a climactic car chase and numerous running gags throughout and unbelievable coincidences. It relishes that its storyline is filled with ridiculous cop movie clichés and the usual jokes about cops and donuts. This crisply paced screwball comedy action flick is smartly directed in a tongue-in-cheek manner by Ron Shelton (“Bull Durham“/”White Men Can’t Jump“/”Dark Blue“), as it pushes aside the murder story as secondary to the character driven story of the buddy-cops. It was scripted by former LAPD Det. Robert Souza along with Shelton. It stars Harrison Ford in a reversal of his more usual dramatic hero roles, as he plays a cynical cop who is weary from trying to get his personal life straight while working for the LAPD on the homicide beat in Hollywood. He’s the honest regular guy who over the years has developed his own unorthodox style of working the street and using snitches who are not the best of citizens, like the madam Cleo (Lolita Davidovich, the director’s wife). Ford’s the savvy, veteran Detective Sergeant Joe Gavilan and his junior partner K.C. Calden (Josh Hartnett) is the handsome wannabe actor with questionable police skills. K.C. can’t even hit the target in gun practice. Joe has nothing in common with him, though the two manage to get along just fine. We catch K.C. yelling “Stella!” into the morning mist, as one of his many girlfriends lies in bed watching him rehearse for a community theater production of A Streetcar Named Desire. He is the son of a cop who was killed on duty and is bitter with the police department because of a possible coverup, as no arrest was made to give him closure.
The 60-year-old Joe’s personal life is coming apart mainly due to alimony payments to his three ex-wives, as his moonlighting real estate job has him desperately trying to sell his white elephant house or for that matter any house to get a commission for some needed money so he can keep up with all his expenses including the mortgage and car payments. While on the job his cell phone is always ringing to the tune of the Temptations “My Girl”, because of the real estate gig or from informers or from his radio psychic girlfriend Ruby (Olin). Ruby just broke up with Internal Affairs investigator Bennie Macko (Greenwood), who is a long time rival and is trying to bring Joe down on some bogus criminal charges by having him under surveillance. Needless to say when he finds Joe with Ruby, he aims to get further revenge. While the 24-year-old K.C. is seen as a goofy, free spirit, who teaches yoga to a class of sensual young ladies and leads a secret spiritual life that is beyond Joe’s comprehension. The running gag is that K.C. has a long list of lady friends he keeps meeting and though he bungles their names, they still clamor to go out with him. When Joe sees him in action, he can only shake his head in amazement and give the young stud his begrudging props.
The partner team is called in to investigate a bloody quadruple murder of rap singers in a trendy Hollywood hip-hop club. Its owner (Master P) just happens to be looking for a fancy house and Joe easily mixes in police work with trying to get the entrepreneur the six million dollar mansion he desires and thereby rescue himself from his financial woes. Through a lead from one of K.C.’s girlfriends Joe finagles his way into an exclusivity selling deal of the has-been big name producer Jerry Duran’s (Landau) Beverly Hills mansion and interests the rap club owner in buying it. The running gag is how difficult it is to make the sale and how it transpires while Joe’s in the middle of some heavy police action.
The murder investigation leads the duo to a disreputable rap producer named Sartain (Isaiah Washington), who is lying about what he knows of the murdered rap group his label backs. A dirty cop, Leroy Wasley (Yoakam), who coincidentally was partners with K.C.’s father and was with him when he got shot over a drug bust, now works as security head for Sartain. He also has connections with Internal Affairs inspector Macko. The psychopathic Wasley is not only linked to the murders of the rap group and the murder of the two hired thugs who killed them, but might have been also involved with the murder of K.C.’s father.
The cop’s biggest lead is when they uncover a rapper-songwriter K-Ro who witnessed the murders. His protective mom is played by Gladys Knight, and he flees out the back after she lets the cops in her house. K-Ro is chased by the cops through the Venice canals as he’s in a pedal-boat and the younger cop is on foot while the older cop trails him by car over many tiny bridges, in a scene that was more zany than tense.
There are a few cameos that have no point in helping the storyline, but the point is that the storyline didn’t matter as much as the parody. It’s amusing to see Monty Python member Eric Idle arrested for solicitation and Smokey Robinson as an impatient cabbie and Lou Diamond Phillips ham it up as an undercover vice squad cop in drag.
The climactic car chase was on foot and also includes Ford on a girl’s bike, as the cops are racing through Rodeo Drive and past other LA landmarks such as the Walk of Fame outside Grauman’s Chinese Theater. It was done in Keystone Kop slapstick style; it also mixed in a healthy dose of thuggery to bring the film back to its thriller origins. It worked for me as an offbeat tale that caught the seamy side of Hollywood and the quirkiness of being a policeman in such a town that prides itself as the glamor capital of the world. The comedic efforts of Ford and Hartnett worked out well because of their good timing. In spots this was an hilarious film, whose comedy unfolded from picking up certain truths about police work and the seamy side of the rap music scene that went under the radar of how most films in this genre are handled.
REVIEWED ON 6/19/2003 GRADE: B –
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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