Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Harrison Ford, Josh Hartnett, Lena Olin, Isaiah Washington, Lolita Davidovich, Robert Wagner
Written by: Ron Shelton, Robert Souza
Directed by: Ron Shelton
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, sexual situations and language
Running Time: 116
Date: 06/10/2003
IMDB

Hollywood Homicide (2003)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Cop Making Sense

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

"I'm trying to remember how this all used to be glamorous," says JoeGavilan (Harrison Ford) while gazing out the window at Hollywood/Vine inHollywood Homicide. That's the key moment that explains film'sultimate joke: that Hollywood is a dried-up old celluloid whore nippedand tucked and plastic-surgeried into some hollow, twisted form of life.

Whereas Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard caught Hollywood during the death-rattle of the silent era, Hollywood Homicide gets Hollywood at the end of some other kind of era -- maybe the end of everything. Certainly this summer's movies -- Dumb and Dumberer, From Justin to Kelly, Bad Boys II, etc. -- indicate that art in sunny So- Cal is dead.

Ironically, Hollywood Homicide may be the only major studio release that isn't based on a book, comic book, TV show, roller coaster, video game, board game, other movies or some combination thereof.

As Hollywood Homicide begins Joe and his younger partner K.C. Calden (Josh Hartnett) arrive on the scene of a gang killing; a rap group has been machine-gunned down while performing in a hot nightclub.

Joe and K.C. take a cursory look around for clues, but they're really more interested in ordering food. They're also easily distracted by their side jobs: Joe is a real estate agent trying to unload a Mt. Olympus hulk, while K.C. is a yoga teacher and wannabe actor. His attention is preoccupied by his forthcoming A Streetcar Named Desire performance, to which he's invited any producer or agent who will return his calls.

Neither cop is particularly smart, and both wander through their complicated lives with warm dispositions. K.C. enjoys an endless line of women to sleep with, but he can't remember any of their names (they do look a lot alike). He's also torn about staying with the police -- like his father before him -- or taking the acting route.

Joe keeps a sporadic affair going with a sexy radio talk show host (Lena Olin), avoids Internal Affairs as much as he can, and tries to keep enough money rolling in to afford his many mortgages and alimonies -- without getting nailed for "co-mingling of funds."

Almost as an afterthought, the duo try to solve the four-way murder by investigating a record producer, Sartain (Isaiah Washington), and his various sleazy associates.

The movie climaxes with the sloppiest, most ridiculous chase scene in years, including K.C. running circles around a duck pond and Joe requisitioning a little girl's bicycle.

It's all on purpose, of course. Even the opening titles, with dozens of flashing, fading signs reading "Hollywood" tell us how sad and old this place is. During the chase scene, our heroes splash cement on a saggy-looking Robert Wagner about to immortalize himself in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater. And three overly made-up radio traffic queens fly over in their respective helicopters, reporting on the chase as if it were real news.

Screenwriter/director Ron Shelton (Bull Durham), who has rebounded in a serious way from his dismal Dark Blue loads up his movie with funny, pathetic little details endlessly elaborating on how much of a joke Tinseltown has become. If The Player had been an action movie -- with its anticlimaxes and its sorry, stupid Masters of the Universe -- it would have been a lot like Hollywood Homicide.

Even Harrison Ford sheds his noble Gary Cooper-type armor and calls upon some of his old Han Solo cockiness for his role. He's also in on the joke; he's too old for the part and he knows it. He plays it with an appropriate shabbiness and apathy, waking up every morning without knowing exactly why. It's his best performance in years, since perhaps The Fugitive, if anyone's counting.

Many of the characters, from Ford and Olin to director Shelton's wife Lolita Davidovich, are fighting off the effects of aging and seem tired from the effort. Cameos from Gladys Knight, Smokey Robinson and others help.

Meanwhile youngsters like Hartnett and Master P vie for their piece of the good life, even though the real glamour has left the building long ago. (The proof is in K.C.'s poor aim when firing his gun.)

To take Hollywood Homicide at surface level is to miss the point, yet it may be far too bombastic for most people to understand how really subtle it is. Sure, it's a huge plastic mess, but deliberately so. And, like Norma Desmond, underneath it has a soul -- the inner life of movies that used to be about something.

DVD Details: On his commentary track, the first thing that writer/director Ron Shelton says is that Hollywood Homicide is a spoof of buddy cop movies. However, when the movie was released most reviewers somehow tagged it as an actual buddy cop movie. One chase scene takes place in and around a duck pond, for Pete's sake! Harrison Ford and Josh Hartnett star as a pair of distracted cops in a burnt-out husk of a plastic town that still believes in its former glory. This story is very funny and highly entertaining with just a hint of regret. Ironically, Shelton's name later appeared on the screenplay for another big summer movie, Bad Boys II, which is precisely the kind of one-dimensional twaddle that Hollywood Homicide tries to skewer.