An attempt to merge a semi-jokey buddy movie with a more realistic account of cops’ messy private lives, “Hollywood Homicide” falls short on both counts. “Light Blue” in comparison to Ron Shelton’s sorely unappreciated last effort “Dark Blue,” pic feels like a half-hearted effort by the individualistic writer-director to make a big, mainstream studio picture for a change while keeping himself interested by packing in as many personal observations as possible about the Harrison Ford character’s chaotic lifestyle and midlife issues. Unfortunately, the comic elements are particularly lame and the police procedural storyline is treated with benign neglect. Genre appeal and star names should draw reasonable early crowds, but pic’s failure to generate either mirth or excitement suggests short legs and only moderate long-term B.O.
Shelton’s co-writer Robert Souza, a 22-year LAPD vet who idolizes Joseph Wambaugh, was the director’s technical consultant on “Dark Blue,” and it’s the little details of what makes cops’ lives so crazy that gives the new film whatever interest it possesses.
Central to the premise here is that old pro Joe Gavilan (Ford) and his young partner of four months, K.C. Calden (Josh Hartnett), spend as much of their time on other pursuits as they do investigating crimes. Three-time divorcee Joe is trying to make a go of a sideline as a real estate broker, while casually handsome K.C. teaches yoga (exclusively to young hotties, it seems) and is on the verge of quitting the force in order to become a movie star.
But meanwhile, there’s a big crime to be solved. In the heart of Hollywood, a rap club is shot up by a couple of thugs, leaving four dead. After complaining that he doesn’t dig the music, Joe can’t get through his interrogation of the venue’s owner (Master P) without asking if he’s interested in buying a house, while K.C. is more preoccupied with how acting is his “bliss” than with hunting down clues.
Nonetheless, the guys follow leads to the offices of scary hip-hop entrepreneur Antoine Sartain (Isaiah Washington), an ex-con who looks like Sean Combs but is otherwise no doubt meant to summon up thoughts of Suge Knight for the way he deals with talent that presumes to abandon his label. Even here, K.C. has a script pushed into his hands by a Sartain underling, while Sartain, whose dirty work is done by ex-cop security expert Leroy Wasley (Dwight Yoakam), quickly undertakes to erase the incriminating trail by knocking off the shooters he hired to do the nightclub killings.
But any time spent detailing the narrative elements would serve to exaggerate their importance to the fabric of the overall movie, which is more intent on making light of how cops juggle the diverse elements in their lives. To wit: In between calls to agencies trying to recruit an audience for his upcoming showcase performance in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” K.C. has Joe read Stella to his Stanley Kowalski in the car; Joe tries to hustle the sale of the $6 million home of an old producer (Martin Landau) to the richer-than-he-seems club owner; Joe’s former dalliance with a major Hollywood madame (Lolita Davidovich) is used against him by Internal Affairs heavy Bennie Macko (Bruce Greenwood), who also happens to be the former b.f. of Joe’s secret lover, frisky radio psychic Ruby (Lena Olin), whose abilities are ultimately and absurdly put to the test in cracking the case, much to the approval of the mystical-leaning K.C.
It’s no great surprise that the film climaxes with an elaborate chase, one that begins in BevHills and winds up on Hollywood Boulevard right in the middle of a Grauman’s Chinese forecourt ceremony honoring Robert Wagner. What is a surprise is how lame the sequence is; shooting style manages to make the high-speed affair utterly thrill-free, which merely compounds the silliness of having the previously prudent and secretive Sartain firing his gun wildly all over town in full public view. A scene-ending rooftop pursuit and fight manages to reference both “Vertigo” and “Once Upon a Time in America” while producing no resonance of its own.
Ford and Hartnett, handsome guys not known for their great range, play together reasonably well, and Ford in particular gives it his best shot in a losing cause, as he seems well attuned to what Shelton means to do with Joe’s character. Given a much better developed script and a stronger grasp of tone, there’s little doubt the same cast, from top to bottom, would be capable of delivering an entertainment that could at least have been mentioned in the same breath with some of the good buddy movies of the late ’60s and ’70s. But even that modest goal has eluded Shelton this time out.
Plentiful Hollywood locations give the routine-looking production some sparkle, while the PG-13 rating feels like a constraint on the film being as down-and-dirty as it might, and probably should, have been.