Archive for Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Homicide’ is a little too Hollywood

(PG-13) **

June 11, 2003

Midway through "Hollywood Homicide," young detective K.C. Calden
(Josh Hartnett) is describing to veteran partner Joe Gavilan
(Harrison Ford) his spiritual awakening through yoga. Calden explains
that he originally got into the practice to meet girls, but now it
provides him with a deep appreciation of the universe.

Gavilan pretends to understand, remarking that yoga is "deep AND shallow."

That's also the perfect description of "Hollywood Homicide."

This comedy from writer-director Ron Shelton ("Bull Durham") has a
brilliant central notion: to approach the L.A. buddy-cop flick as if
the characters are just another arm of the Hollywood industry that
serves as their precinct. K.C. is a second-generation detective, but
he really wants to be an actor. Joe has a side job selling real
estate, and is constantly using his cell phone to broker deals
between movie producers and rappers - even while in the midst of a
high-speed pursuit.

This is a pair that is more concerned with head shots than shots to the head.

But as much as Shelton tries to spice up the genre by revamping the
characters, the picture still disintegrates into a numbingly routine
action romp. The plot of "Hollywood Homicide" relies on such
chestnuts as an Internal Affairs team investigating the hero, a
crooked cop on the inside, a fleeing killer who keeps climbing up
things to escape, and a 25-minute car chase/fight scene finale that
is the definition of preposterous.

It's one thing to embrace a cliche in order to twist around the story
line in a new way (see "Adaptation"); it's another to get so mired in
trying to parody something that it becomes as cliche as its source
(see "Showtime").

At least the film starts well.

Following a nifty credits montage of different Hollywood signs
throughout the city, the movie casually sets up the quirky nature of
its leads. Given the relative ages of the stars, Shelton admirably
avoids rendering K.C. as a hothead with no regard for authority, or
Joe as a grizzled loner who attempts to teach the kid a lesson.

As the men first investigate a gangland-style killing of a hip-hop
act, they're portrayed as friendly and respectful of each other's
abilities/shortcomings - even if they are a tad preoccupied with
their own extracurricular affairs. K.C. is practicing for his role of
Stanley Kowalski in a one-time presentation of "A Streetcar Named
Desire" that he has organized to showcase his talents for agents.
Meanwhile, Joe is desperately trying to unload his swanky Mt. Olympus
property, even appealing to some of the wealthier witnesses that he
is interrogating.

Both men's personalities are reflected in their ubiquitous cell
phones. Joe's rings to the tune of "My Girl." K.C.'s is set to "Funky
Town."

Before long, however, the movie gradually becomes like every other
cops vs. cover-up tale. The narrative grows increasingly reliant on
laborious chase scenes and noisy shoot-outs. The "surprises" turn
contrived and inevitable. Of course "the bad cop" (Dwight Yoakam) was
responsible for the death of K.C.'s father. Of course Joe is having
an affair with the wife (uber-sexy Lena Olin) of the Internal Affairs
officer who is harassing him.

Add in the distracting cameos of rappers and '60s-era soul musicians
(e.g. Smokey Robinson as an irate cab driver), and the movie begins
to prove no different than those it initially tried to lampoon.

By the end, "Hollywood Homicide" appears just as generic as its
title. Consider it more shallow than deep.

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