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'Homicide' Murders Hollywood Comedy

By Jeremy Mathews


"Hollywood Homicide"
Columbia Pictures
Directed by Ron Shelton
Written by Robert Souza and Ron Shelton
Produced by Lou Pitt and Ron Shelton
Starring Harrison Ford, Josh Hartnett, Martin Landau, Isaiah Washington, Dwight Yoakam, Lou Diamond Phillips, Jamison Jones and Keith David
Rated PG-13
(out of four)

While visiting Josh Hartnett's yoga class, Harrison Ford considers dumping Calista Flockhart after he realizes that she'll never be able to bend like this without breaking.  

"Hollywood Homicide" plays as if the filmmakers spent most of their time thinking of throwaway jokes and clever details, then realized that they needed a story and threw something together. The film feels like you could fall asleep through an hour of it and not miss anything, but at the same time, you want it to take off to comic heights because it’s almost got something.

Because it’s not worth investing energy in the story, the clever material doesn’t leave the same impression as it would in a thought-out, well made film. It’s difficult to get behind a murder mystery in which the detectives do little detective work and the mystery sort of solves itself so that an obligatory car chase can take place.

Harrison Ford and Josh Hartnett play a veteran homicide detective and a rookie detective (respectively, if you couldn’t guess). Here’s where the fun details come in: Instead of working in security while off-duty, Ford’s character, Joe Galivan, is a real-estate agent and Hartnett’s character, K.C. Calden, is a yoga instructor.

Galivan is stuck with property that he owns in Mt. Olympus; he’s in debt, owing alimony to his three ex-wives. He spends much of his cop time, including the film’s climax, talking on the phone trying to cut a deal. Calden, on the other hand, originally started as a yoga instructor to get laid, but now sees that "there’s something to this spiritual crap."

Ron Shelton, whose films include "Bull Durham," and "White Men Can’t Jump," rather sloppily directed this film. While individual scenes play out nicely, the film as a whole gets mangled up with failed high ambitions. The film could have pushed further and succeeded as a full-fledged comedy, but there are scenes that expect us to take the murder mystery seriously, despite it being utter nonsense.

The investigation involves the murder of the four members of an up-and-coming rap group during a concert at a local club. The main suspect is the president of the group’s record label, because the band was thinking of leaving as he’s a power-hungry, money grubbing maniac. There’s also a sub-plot involving Calden’s search for the man who killed his father, a police officer who was shot on the job under shady circumstances.

The film is at its weakest when it gives the slightest suggestion that any of this is at all interesting. It’s at its best when it lets us watch Ford and Hartnett work together and shows the amusing details of Hollywood scandal.

We see the music industry, the film industry, acting (Calden aspires to be an actor and rents a theater for a showcase of "A Streetcar Named Desire" starring himself as Stanley), psychics, TV camera crews and shopping areas. It’s an amusing sample of all the things typically associated with Hollywood.

I can’t really recommend the film because it never goes as far into the comedy as it should. But there are definitely scenes worthy of mention, such as a wacky interrogation avoidance strategy, an on-foot chase scene that repeatedly goes across a canal and the final chase scene, which features botched car apprehensions and more realistic awkward fights than you’d find in most movies. For summer entertainment, you could find much worse, but you could also find better.