Josh Hartnett and Harrison Ford in Hollywood Homicide.
Growing up as I did in the 1980s, Harrison Ford has always been THE movie star to me. My brother Patrick talks often about how the 'new' stars of today can't compare to the gods of the Golden era of movies. I think, and I don't know if he would agree, that Harrison Ford is one of the few actors working today who matches those names of yesteryear. I certainly have no qualms with putting his name up there with the likes of Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable, or John Wayne. Even non-fans of Ford (if there are any apart from film snobs who snub anything or anyone deemed too popular), have to appreciate the quality of his stardom, which rivals even those cinematic legends.
While his latest film, Hollywood Homicide, is certainly not his best work by any means, it does give us another chance to see Harrison in action, and even provides him with the opportunity to stretch his underused comedic skills.
Like several of his earlier movies Harrison is playing a cop. This time he's LA Homicide detective Joe Gaivlan and he's investigating the murder of an up and coming rap group. Since admittedly Harrison is getting a little old to keep playing the action hero, he is this time partnered with a younger actor; Josh Hartnett, Joe's partner K.C..
Let me say up front, this movie, a buddy cop picture, has been done so many times that it would take something pretty amazing in the plot for it to be original. There's nothing amazing about this plot. There's crooked cops, internal affairs on Joe and K.C.'s case, and the all the usual plot devices you find in movies of this sort, including your standard car chases and gunfights.
And while comedy is nothing new in your typical buddy movie (The Lethal Weapon series, and the two Rush Hour movies are good examples), this is the first big comedy Ford has done since Working Girl. And while his comedic timing isn't perfect, he does provoke some good laughs, and he does it without compromising his hero status or by spoofing himself as DeNiro has started doing.
The movie is filled with cameo appearances including Eric Idle of Monty Python (who is on screen for only about 5 seconds, but still gets a laugh), Gladys Knight (as the mother of the only witness to the murder), Smokey Robinson (the cabbie who gets his cab commandeered by Harrison), and Lou Diamond Phillips (the male cop undercover as a female hooker) are just some of the famous faces who pop up throughout the movie.
I haven't yet become a fan of Hartnett's but he does hold his own with Ford, playing the inexperienced detective who moonlight's as a Yoga Instructor, and wants to quit the police force to become an actor. His character also provides one more Cop standard plot device, in that his father, also a policeman, was murdered, and wouldn't you know it, his murderer ends up connected to the murder Josh and Harrison are investigating.
While not the best or the most original movie ever made, Hollywood Homicide is funny and entertaining enough. Perhaps most importantly, it's another chance to see Harrison Ford back in action, and that's something I'll always welcome.
Harrison Ford in Hollywood Homicide.
Scott accurately points out that Hollywood Homicide is a cliché-ridden piece of celluloid. However, that is not the big problem with this movie. The problem is that the writers forgot the second rule of screen writing.
The first rule is to make a likable character for the audience to relate to. Joe is such a character. He has financial problems. He has stress at work. Joe even has some of the funniest moments in the movie. I laughed my ass off when he was fighting the old lady for the taxi. Every adult can see himself or herself, to some degree, in him.
The second rule is to give the likable character a goal to achieve, that the audience can root for. What is Joe's goal? Is it to solve the homicide? Is it to sell a house? Is it to train the rookie on how he likes his burger?
Joe's partner, K.C., drives a hot car. He teaches yoga exclusively to beautiful women. He gets laid with out ever having to make an effort. In fact, sex with hot women seems to be waiting for him around many corners. His goal is to be an actor. I can't exactly relate to this guy. How many people can?
This is supposed to be a cop movie, but Joe is more excited about selling a house than he is solving a murder. K.C. would rather practice his lines for a play. Neither cop seems to really care whether or not they solve the crime. They go through the motions as if it is just a job. That may very well have been the writer's intent. But if the main characters don't give a damn, why should the audience?
So, we are left with two entertaining enough characters who really have nowhere to go.
Josh Hartnett and Harrison Ford in Hollywood Homicide.
Sure it's fun seeing an aging Harrison Ford as the veteran half of a lighthearted buddy cop movie (and this was a decade ago mind you) but even he is unable to rise much above the derivative plot and generically written characters. Scott, I do agree that Ford is an iconic Movie Star of the type they just don't make anymore. Hollywood Homicide has its moments but it is strictly fast food cinema. It's fast-paced with a few cheap laughs but doesn't keep well.
Eric, another rule of screenwriting is for comedies to actually be funny. Hollywood Homicide isn't so much. I laughed out loud twice. Once when Ford says this line, acknowledging his age, to a woman he is about to have sex with, “If I take my gingko... I can still remember where I put the Viagra.” and the other time was when Josh Hartnett commandeers the minivan with a family in it...
Van Family Son: We're gonna die. I know we're going to die.
K.C.: Yes, actually. We, we will die.
Van Family Mom: No, you're not gonna die.
K.C.: I don't mean right now.
Van Family Son: I don't wanna die!
K.C.: You're not gonna die okay?
I know it is supposed to be hilarious that Ford moonlights selling real estate and Hartnett is a yoga instructor/aspiring actor but these are one note jokes that get stretched out to the breaking point. Watching yet another less talented actor spoof Brando in Streetcar is exactly nobody's idea of fresh comedy.
The various cameos by famous faces are fun and the movie goes by quickly. Watching it is a bit like combining a high-speed police chase with a guided tour of modern day Tinseltown. I enjoyed the scene where Robert Wagner is supposed to be leaving his hand-prints in cement outside Grauman's Chinese Theater. Hollywood's unofficial mayor, Johnny Grant, tells an interesting anecdote about how it all began. Apparently Mary Pickford and Doug Fairbanks had a dog named Zorro that ran through some wet cement at a movie premier there in 1927 and a wonderful Hollywood tradition was begun. Apocryphal or not, for me that story was the most intertaining part of the movie.
I'll add half a star for the joy in watching Ford stretch his comedic chops a bit. It's better than Morning Glory!
Photos © Copyright Columbia Pictures (2003)