HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE directed by Ron Shelton, produced by Shelton and Lou Pitt, written by Shelton and Robert Souza, with Harrison Ford, Josh Hartnett, Isaiah Washington, Lena Olin and Bruce Greenwood. 115 minutes. A Revolution Studio production. A Columbia release. Opens Friday (June 13). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 76. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
In his long and grouchy career as a leading man, Harrison Ford may never have given a more sincere line reading than the one he drops early in Hollywood Homicide. When his young partner, played by Josh Hartnett, announces he's thinking about giving up police work to devote himself to acting, Ford grimaces and asks, "Why would you want to do something as stupid as acting?" This may not be the most graceful question for a man who gets $20 million a picture to ask, but it does sum up Ford's increasingly prickly presence in his own movies.
Ron Shelton, best known as a writer who understands the way guys sound when they're not doing much of anything, and a director who can get lifelike performances from Kevin Costner (Bull Durham, Tin Cup), takes Ford's grouchiness and turns it back on him to create comedy. This odd tonal blend of police procedural and broad social comedy actually gets laughs from the cloud of dismay that's trailed Ford through K-19, What Lies Beneath and Random Hearts.
Shelton's specialty is the odd male couple (White Men Can't Jump), and he finds gold in the pairing of Ford and Hartnett, who plays a cop moonlighting as a yoga instructor. Meanwhile, Ford's cop is unsuccessfully trying to make millions selling real estate on the side to support his ex-wives and kids.
Hollywood Homicide doesn't quite satisfy. The "mystery"of who killed the rap group is never in question, and the police work gets in the way of the behavioural comedy. The cast Shelton has assembled includes Lena Olin, Martin Landau and an assortment of rappers, and they can all manage funny. (If you like genre films straight up, you're better off with Shelton's LAPD drama, Dark Blue, released earlier this year and coming to home video June 24; excellent Kurt Russell performance there, by the way.)
Hollywood Homicide is very enjoyable if you share Shelton's fondness for shaggy-dog narratives and for the small sparks struck by actors having fun. At the same time, he takes the climax of the film seriously. The final fight scene, filmed beneath a circus of L.A. news helicopters, looks exhausting, and Ford is not a young man.
They say there's going to be a fourth Indiana Jones movie. They can't be serious.