LAPD detective Joe Gavilan, who moonlights as an estate agent, and partner K. C. Calden, a wannabe actor rehearsing A Streetcar Named Desire, investigate the shooting of a rap group while Gavilan comes under the scrutiny of Internal Affairs.
American critics and box office analysts hailed the poor US performance of Ron Shelton's cop comedy-drama as the death knell for the action man career of Harrison Ford. Yet the accent on action misses the point. Adept at creating male characters who feel compelled to reveal themselves through talk - see Bull Durham or Tin Cup - Shelton uses the buddy cop genre, for the most part, to explore two goofy characters at the expense of huge explosions and obvious one-liners. And if that means the pacing goes awry and the storytelling meanders, surely that's preferable to the same old, same old.
Recalling his quirky character turns in American Graffiti, The Conversation and Apocalypse Now, Ford is at his grizzled, laconic best, transcending the standard world-weary cop stereotype. Watch him flip out in an attempt to commandeer a car, or read Blanche DuBois' lines from A Streetcar Named Desire opposite Hartnett doing Stanley, and you'll be reminded of his genius for deadpan comedy.
As likable as ever, Hartnett gives as good as he gets as an actor trapped inside a cop's persona, teaching yoga to bangable babes and giving his sage advice mid-car chase. Where the movie falls down is in the cop conventions that surround the central pairing.
The plot through-line of Gavilan and Calden investigating the death of some rappers is a disappointing detective story, peppered with forgettable villains and a contrived subplot involving an Internal Affairs investigation.
The final, extended chase is annoyingly conventional (despite the sight of Ford on a kid's bicycle) compared to the nice character beats and originality built up in the first half. Which is a shame, as Ford and Hartnett deserved a better finale to their promising pairing.
Neither the post K-19 return to form Ford fans might have hoped for, nor the failure its disappointing box office performance suggests, Hollywood Homicide offers great value when it gives its likeable stars room to breathe and banter. It once again offers proof that Harrison Ford’s deft comic touch remains one of Hollywood’s most neglected assets.
Reviewed by Ian Freer