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HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Harrison Ford, Josh Hartnett, Lena Olin, Bruce Greenwood, Isaiah Washington, Lolita Davidovich, Keith David, Master P, Dwight Yoakam, Martin Landau
Director: Ron Shelton
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1, Full Screen 1.33:1
Studio: Columbia Tri Star
Features: See Review
Length: 116 Minutes
Release Date: October 7, 2003

“We’re gonna die, I know it!”

“Well…yes, eventually we ARE going to die someday, but it’s a good thing. We can come back as something better.”

Film ***1/2

Many viewers are likely to feel as if the buddy cop movie is perhaps the most overworked genre of all genres. However, and I guess it helps to be an action movie junkie like myself to say this, the genre could never be more higher in laughs and in pure intense action thanks to a couple of entries this year which have, in my opinion, redefined the genre. One of them was Hollywood Homicide which, like all successful buddy cop movies, has an equal amount of laughs and action to go around.

Movies of this sort aren’t really supposed to merit more than three stars (my soon-to-be-written review for Bad Boys II is likely to shock all who read it), but Hollywood Homicide deserves a hint of extra credit for trying something different with its formula. While shooting the much darker cop movie Dark Blue, writer/director Ron Shelton discovered an interesting thing about numerous L.A. cops, which is that some of them happen to carry second jobs. Many of these kinds of cops worked in the Hollywood district, which is plagued with all sorts of professions. This notion led to the central cop characters in this film, who both have secondary careers.

Gruffy veteran cop Joe Gavilan (Harrison Ford) is going through a major crisis, and it doesn’t have much to do with the current murder investigation he’s assigned to. Moonlighting as a real estate broker, Gavilan is stressed out about the fact that he can’t seem to sell a nice piece of property on Mount Olympus. If he fails to make a sale, his future in real estate can pretty much be associated with the fate of the Titanic.

Gavilan’s partner, K.C. Calden (Josh Hartnett), is a clean-cut kid, relatively new to the force, who doubles as a yoga instructor. Although he insists that his decision to teach yoga was from a spiritual aspect, Calden admits that he may have got into the profession for easy access to sex with the hot women who attend his classes. Fed up with the whole cop scene, Calden wants to pursue an acting career, as he is in the midst of putting on a one man show performance of A Streetcar Named Desire.

Gavilan and Calden are assigned to investigate a nightclub shooting. The victims of the hit were the four members of an on-the-rise rap group named H20 Klick. The owner of the nightclub, Julius (Master P), is infuriated, insisting that his club has never been a scene for any kind of violent incidents. While questioning, Gavilan discovers a potential buyer for his current real estate property, as Julius says he’s currently looking for a new house.

As for any top suspects, the one that tops the list is Antoine Sartain (Isaiah Washington) the man who heads the very label which endorsed H20 Klick, as well as another rap artist who was also killed, a murder that resulted in a failed murder investigation. It’s soon discovered that H20 Klick was on the verge of a breakup, which would’ve resulted in money down Sartain’s way. This notion illustrates why Sartain would have no reason to quarrel with his signed group, though he remains suspicious.

Another factor that doesn’t help in Gavilan and Calden’s investigation is that of Internal Affairs watch dog Bennie Macko (Bruce Greenwood), who happens to despise Gavilan due to past events, and is looking for any excuse to prevent him or his partner from succeeding their current investigation. It won’t help Gavilan that he happens to be having an affair with Macko’s ex, Ruby (Lena Olin). A scene where Gavilan and Calden are being questioned by Internal Affairs in separate rooms is one of the most howling funny scenes of the year, in my honest opinion.

In addition to the many laughs in Hollywood Homicide, the movie has its share of sensational action sequences, which actually don’t kick in until the second hour. There’s a hilarious foot pursuit of an on-the-lam suspect named K-Ro (rapper Kurupt), who eludes the cops by jumping in and out of numerous duck ponds. K-Ro served as the writer for the slain rap group, and went on the run ever since the hit took place.

Then the movie ends on a big note, in the form of a near twenty minute chase scene in downtown Hollywood. This scene is special not just for its elaborate feel, but it manages to throw in some hugely funny moments, such as the fact that Gavilan manages to negotiate the selling of a house while in a high speed pursuit. Later in the pursuit, and with no other means of transportation, Gavilan yanks a pink bicycle from a little girl while screaming like a crazy man…absolutely priceless.

Loaded with a dynamite cast, hard hitting laughs, and intense high octane action, Hollywood Homicide is, from my perspective, one of the more pleasant surprises of the year. It’s a reminder that Ron Shelton is one of the best writer/directors in the business when it comes to writing sharp and witty comedies, be it action or sports-oriented. It also manages to make some serious clowns out of Harrison Ford and Josh Hartnett, who have a hell of a time displaying their non-too serious sides.

In addition to Bad Boys II, Hollywood Homicide is a much exceptional entry in buddy cop genre, and perhaps one of the best in a long time.

BONUS TRIVIA: Look for quick cameos from the likes of Eric Idle, Robert Wagner, Andre 3000 of Outkast, and Smokey Robinson

Video ****

The anamorphic picture provided by Columbia Tri Star, who continue to display their distinct qualities by showing this widescreen presentation in the preferred ratio of 2.40:1, is one of the studio’s best looking of the year. Right from the opening scene at a police firing range, every shot and every angle is given the absolute best look it can be given, with striking colors and all around picture clarity. The picture is of the utmost sharpest and clearest as you’d expect from CTS. A full screen version is also included on this dual layered disc.

Audio ****

CTS’ 5.1 mix delivers for just the reasons you’d expect it to do so. Hollywood Homicide is an action comedy with a plot set in the hip hop music business. This means that both the action sequences, as well as music performances get their share of dynamic sound playback. Dialogue is also heard at a most high rate, and the action gets divided up very well in terms of all around range. The last thirty minutes, especially, is a striking jolt of sound delivery. High marks, indeed!

Features **

I wish there could’ve been a bit more included in this area. Featured is a commentary from Ron Shelton, a trailer, and bonus trailers for Air Force One, Charlie’s Angels Full Throttle, The Devil’s Own, The Missing, and Radio.

Summary:

It may have been unable to find its audience this past summer, but Hollywood Homicide should hopefully get noticed, especially with this grand DVD presentation. It’s the ultra-perfect mix of action and comedy, with Harrison Ford and Josh Hartnett making the perfect odd pairing of cops.