Buddy cop movies are nothing new in the world of cinema; there are at least a dozen major ones each year, a middling few the least bit interchangeable with the others. Usually, but not always, the pairing is of the odd couple variety, mixing different races and ethnicities to garner laughs (i.e. Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan in the "Rush Hour
" series, or Martin Lawrence and Steve Zahn in 2003's "National Security
Directed by Ron Shelton (2003's "Dark Blue
"), "Hollywood Homicide" is one of the smarter buddy cop flicks to come around in some time, if only because the comedy is slick and original and does not rely on the differing ages of 60-year-old Harrison Ford (2002's "K-19: The Widowmaker
") and 24-year-old Josh Hartnett (2002's "40 Days and 40 Nights
") as the major source of its laughs. The conventions of the plot are still a little moldy around the edges, and some of the narrative is needlessly complicated and muddled, but at its heart is a veritably delightful and likable duo that mesh surprisingly well with each other.
Veteran Joe Gavilan (Harrison Ford) and rookie K.C. Calden (Josh Hartnett) are LAPD homicide detectives working together on the double-murder of rap musicians in a trendy nightclub. Soon, the two deaths becomes four as their apparent murderers are also found dead and burnt to a crisp. As Joe and K.C. dig further into the investigation, Joe finds himself warding off an unnecessary internal affairs inspection, while aspiring actor K.C. struggles to rehearse for his lead role in a stage production of "A Streetcar Named Desire."
If a viewer is unsure whether "Hollywood Homicide" is a straight thriller or a comedy, their query will be answered within the opening five minutes when Joe and K.C. seem more concerned with their hamburger dressings than the crime scene they are working at. Written by Ron Shelton and Robert Souza, the film is sharp-witted and, on occasion, even zany, no less than during the climactic high-speed chase through Hollywood. As Joe and K.C. weave through traffic, come dangerously close to getting severely injured, and ultimately crash their car, Joe desperately uses a child's bike (complete with decorative balloons) as his transportation, while K.C. hijacks a family's car and explains the nature of life and death to the sniveling children in the back-seat. Later, Joe, who works in real estate on the side, anxiously closes a deal on his cell phone as he chases a violent convict through an office building.
For all of its clever asides and good-natured humor, "Hollywood Homicide" is weakest when it is directly dealing with the particulars of its story. There are a few too many subplots that break off from the main storyline, confusing rather than enriching the narrative. And because it is learned by the viewer (but not by Joe and K.C.) who the killers are right from the beginning, it drains any sort of suspense or rooting interest that might have been generated from the central investigation.
Fortunately, the characters are more interesting and fun to watch than the plot is, anyway. In a rare comedic role, Harrison Ford lets loose as the easy-going, terminally put-upon Joe Gavilan, garnering many of the movie's biggest laughs with his sly comic delivery. Ford hasn't been this genuinely good in several years. As woman-magnet K.C. Calden, who dreams of quitting the police force and becoming a full-time thespian, Josh Hartnett is a dynamite partner for Ford, so much more natural and winning than Paul Walker in this week's "2 Fast 2 Furious
" that it just goes to show a really fine young actor from a weak one. As Ford's psychic love interest, Lena Olin (2002's "Queen of the Damned
") is frisky and memorable in an underwritten part.
"Hollywood Homicide" is an entertaining diversion, mostly due to Harrison Ford and Josh Hartnett's camaraderie and the comedic sincerity they bring to their roles. Meanwhile, the plot is expendable and the supporting actors (filled out with everyone from Martin Landau to Lolita Davidovich to rappers Master P and Kurupt to country singer Dwight Yoakam to Lou Diamond Phillips as a drag queen) are colorful but wasted. What one is left with is a solid, undemanding experience that doesn't offer much in the way of substance, but remains satisfying. You may not think too much about "Hollywood Homicide" the second the end credits have begun to roll, but you will not be able to deny the fun you had while it lasted.