Hollywood seems to love the mismatched "buddy film," or at least thinks that viewers do because they keep producing them. That's particularly true when it comes to cop flicks. After all, think of how many such films featuring black and white pairings, old/veteran and young/rookie ones or combinations thereof you've seen.
Thus, when I heard about "Hollywood Homicide" and its pairing of Harrison Ford ("K-19: The Widowmaker," "What Lies Beneath") as the grizzled veteran and Josh Hartnett ("40 Days and 40 Nights," "Pearl Harbor") as the green youngster, I didn't particularly have high expectations. That's because we've had to sit through just about every combination of such characters and plotlines known to humankind (or, apparently, at least to screenwriters).
Yet, the fact that the film was being helmed by Ron Shelton - the filmmaker who usually examines the male psyche in the arena of sports in films such as "Bull Durham," "White Men Can't Jump" and "Tin Cup" - gave me a bit of hope.
A mix of comedy and action that never quite picks and/or maintains its tone, the film isn't as bad as I feared, but clearly isn't Shelton's best work. It also doesn't even come close to matching the highly polished likes of "48 Hours" and "Lethal Weapon" in successfully and entertainingly combining those elements with straightforward drama.
As written by Shelton and former L.A.P.D. detective Robert Souza (who served as a consultant on Shelton's last film, "Dark Blue"), the film is almost consistently flat despite the efforts of cast and crew. Notwithstanding what the commercials and trailers might otherwise make it appear to be, the film is first and foremost a comedy, which could surprise some viewers.
Unfortunately, its jokes don't always work, many fall flat and the film never fully makes it into spoof mode. I don't believe that was ever the intention, but the details and results are a bit too goofy for such a usual action comedy and it's not difficult to see that's the direction it wants to go.
Most of the clichés of the mismatched, cop buddy genre are on display including, but not limited to, the bickering, romantic trysts, drinking, cop father was killed in the line of duty, divorces, etc. Few, however, hit the mark as well as they could or should have, although those "Naked Gun" parodies already covered much of that territory and would be hard to top.
Shelton and Souza seem enamored with two comedic bits - of the running gag variety - that are amusing at first but end up becoming increasingly annoying. Since all cops have second jobs (at least in the movies), we see repeated bits where Ford's character keeps trying to complete a real estate transaction between an urban club owner -- Percy "Master P" Miller ("Dark Blue," "Undisputed") -- and a stodgy Hollywood veteran producer played by Martin Landau ("The Majestic," "Ed Wood"). Meanwhile, Hartnett's character runs a yoga class and longs to be an actor despite being quite awful at it.
While I can see what the filmmakers were trying to achieve with such material, it simply isn't that funny, such as when Ford tries to negotiate the deal while involved in a car chase or states to frightened bystanders -- in an elevator while holding a gun -- that he's a realtor.
Most such scenes obviously seem to have to involve cell phones and that's the film's second running gag where those pesky things simply won't stop ringing. Each character's has a distinctive musical ringing tone that's cute and amusing at first, but by the time they've rung for the thousandth time (or so it seems), you'll feel inclined to yell at the screen for them to shut the darn things off.
As in "48 Hours" and "Lethal Weapon," there is a dramatic storyline beneath the humor that's supposed to be driving the movie forward. Unfortunately, the overall arc of the two detectives trying to solve a multiple homicide that involves the likes of Isaiah Washington ("Ghost Ship," "Welcome to Collinwood") as an ex-con turned music mogul and Dwight Yoakam ("Panic Room," "Sling Blade") as some sort of hitman is as flat as the comedy.
There's also a bit where an Internal Affairs cop -- Bruce Greenwood ("The Core," "Swept Away") - is trying to bring down the elder cop since he's seeing the man's ex - played by Lena Olin ("Queen of the Damned," "Chocolat") - but it similarly ends up spinning its wheels and goes nowhere in terms of drama or comedy.
A wide variety of performers also show up in cameo or small roles, including the likes of Eric Idle, Lolita Davidovich, Lou Diamond Phillips, Gladys Knight and Smokey Robinson, but don't do anything for the film other than distract the viewer (although for a picture like this, it's not too big of a deal).
As far as the two leads, it's hard to get a read on whether they're intentionally trying to look bored and distracted (as if the script dictated they appear that way), or if that's just a byproduct of them realizing they're in a film that isn't as good as they had been promised.
There's zero chemistry between the two (for a film that's apparently supposed to being playing off the lack of such chemistry) and both seem like they can't wait for the day's shooting to end so that they can get out of Dodge, collect their paycheck and move on to their next project.
While it's not the worst film you'll ever see - in general or in relation to mismatched buddy flicks - this mix of comedy, action and drama simply doesn't work that well. Despite a good cast, a few (and I mean just a few) amusing moments and some decent dialogue, it simply can't overcome the fact that everything is too flat. "Hollywood Homicide" rates as a 4 out of 10.