Hollywood Homicide

The title is far from the only lackluster thing about Hollywood Homicide, but its generic blandness is a pretty good clue to what you’re in for with this uninspired action-comedy from writer-director Ron Shelton. Its a standard issue buddy-cop movie starring Harrison Ford and Josh Hartnett as a pair of misfit, mis-matched homicide investigators, who are called in to investigate when four hip-hop artists are assassinated in a Hollywood nightclub. Ford plays a salty veteran detective who works as a realtor on the side to afford his three alimony payments. Evenings, he goes home and hunkers down with a whiskey and his old Motown records (as all salty veteran cops do). Hartnett is his wet-behind-the ears partner, who scores some off-duty cash teaching yoga classes to rich and beautiful young women. Hartnett’s on the force because his Dad was a cop, murdered in the line of duty, and when he gets the opportunity to avenge the old man he’ll lose the badge for a career on the theatrical stage. The fact that these guys have jobs on the side is a mildly amusing update on the cop movie formula and, for about the first half hour, the movie has an affable, slightly off-kilter tone, in spite of its lackadaisical, derivative premise. Ron Shelton previously helmed the terrific sports flicks Bull Durham and Tin Cup and he has a great ear for the way men talk to eachother in competitive situations, whether in the dug-out, on the golf course, or in the squad car. Although the quadruple assassination plot fails to grip, and the film shows no particular knowledge of or affinity for its hip-hop milieu, I was willing to forgive these deficiencies so long as Homicide’s primary focus remained on macho banter, hard-ball real-estate negotiations, and dirty jokes. However, any good faith Shelton builds up with his quirky characters and occasionally snappy dialogue is obliterated by a fatiguing car chase near the finale. Terminally unfunny and completely devoid of thrills, this boring sequence is an unwelcome throw-back to Hollywood movies of the mid-eighties, when seemingly every movie had to end with a chase scene exactly like this one. Then as now, the comic car chase is a sign of creative fatigue. While Ford and Hartnett are flinging their automobiles around downtown LA amid exploding fire hydrants, gun blasts, and screaming crowds at the Grauman’s Chinese Theater, the tiny spark of energy and wit the picture had just barely sustained up ’til then was completely extinguished. Gone, too, any hope that the movie’s murder mystery might mature. The movie leaves us with an acute and rather depressing feeling of been-there-done-that: Hollywood Homicide is as stale as a box of donuts left on the squadroom table for about twenty years.

You can find this review, along with other reviews of past and current film, theater, and opera, on our website, at wfiu.indiana.edu. In the meantime, this is Jonathan Haynes, reviewing movies for WFIU.

Peter Noble Kuchera

Originally from Columbus, Indiana, Peter moved to Bloomington in 1998. He completed four years of film study at the University of Minnesota and two years of film production in the Film Cities in St. Paul. He began reviewing movies for WFIU in 2003 and began producing on-air fundraising spots for WTIU in 2006. In 2008 he received a second place award for Best Radio Critic at the Los Angeles Press Club’s First Annual National Entertainment Journalism Awards in 2008. Peter passed away suddenly on June 8, 2009.

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