Murder in Blah Blah Land

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 13, 2003

"Hollywood Homicide" is not a very good movie. But neither is it a very bad movie. It is not much of anything, in fact.

Sort of a comedy, but without many laughs, and sort of a mystery, but drained of any real suspense by the fact that we know who done it almost from the start, it's a buddy film starring two people who, even as the closing credits roll, appear to have just met. Looking very unhappy at having to play "old," Harrison Ford has the role of wizened police veteran Joe Gavilan, while cookie-cutter hunk Josh Hartnett is his partner, K.C. Calden (which probably stands for Kooky Cop since he eats bean sprouts instead of beef). "Harrison, meet Josh. Josh, meet Harrison. Aaand action!" The two have so little chemistry, even for a movie about partners who have no chemistry -- Ford's the gruff, misanthropic loner; Hartnett a New Age, chakra-massaging ladies man -- that every scene between them, and that's most every scene, feels like a screen test or, at best, a rehearsal.

The film doesn't even cut it as cheap escapism. Watching "Hollywood Homicide" feels less like entertainment than waiting. Waiting for something to happen. Waiting for it to get funnier, or better, or even worse (which might, ironically, have made it better). Waiting for some character to come along that we actually (gasp!) care about. Waiting for it to be over. "Waiting for Godot." Minus the brilliant script, of course.

Ah, the script. Co-written by director Ron Shelton and Robert Souza, a 22-year veteran of the LAPD who Shelton hired as law-enforcement consultant on his last (and far better) movie, "Dark Blue," "Hollywood Homicide" is ostensibly about the investigation of a series of music-industry murders, but it gets most of its mileage out of a single, very thin joke: Every cop in Los Angeles has a second or third job.

That's it. Hoo ha! Pretty funny, that one. Shelton and Souza must think so, because they make reference to it about once every five minutes. Look, there's a cop moonlighting as a security guard. Hey, there's another one. Now Gavilan, a part-time real estate agent as it turns out, is talking on his cell phone, trying to hook up a buyer (rapper-actor-media mogul Master P) with a seller (Martin Landau). And that's in the middle of a chase scene. Now Calden is on his cell phone, trying to interest a talent agent in his budding career as an actor. Or flirting with his yoga students, most of whom, it seems, are only too eager to tear off their Danskins and jump in the hot tub with him.

And why wouldn't they? He's Josh Hartnett, for gosh sake. Crusty old Ford, on the other hand, must content himself with Lena Olin (not a bad consolation prize), for whom he gets to utter the immortal quip, "If I take my ginkgo, I can still remember where I put the Viagra." Olin, you see, plays a radio psychic who happens to be the former wife (or girlfriend, I can't remember) of the Internal Affairs officer (Bruce Greenwood) who is trying to bust Gavilan and Calden because Gavilan once publicly humiliated him for arresting the wrong guy. Now he's doing it again, by sleeping with his ex.

But wait a minute. That makes it sound as if there's some real psychological motivation here. Forget about it. The only reason anyone does anything in this movie is because the script tells him to. When they called it "Hollywood Homicide," they weren't kidding.

HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE (PG-13, 111 minutes) -- Contains obscenity, gun violence and sensuality. Area theaters.

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