The "buddy cop" genre has certainly been in a slump lately. Box-office bombs such as last year's "Showtime" and "I Spy" (O.K. it's a "buddy spy" movie, but it's close enough) as well as this year's stinker "National Security" have proven this point. Hollywood Homicide is the Sammy Sosa home-run (cork optional) that lifts this genre out of its slump because it provides some great humor, action and what the previous "buddy cop" movies before it have lacked: great chemistry between the lead actors.
The movie starts out by contrasting the two cops, yet showing how they're the same in that they both want more out of life than just being a cop. We first see Joe Gavilan (Harrison Ford) waiting outside of a house he is trying to sell in his moonlighting gig as a real estate broker. The first time we see K.C. Calden, he's teaching a tai-chi class and we later find out that he is thinking of quitting the force to become, take a wild guess here, an actor. But when a hot new rap group is killed in a nightclub, Gavilan and Calden must go back to their day jobs to find the killers.
Ford and Hartnett make a great duo. Of course, because their ages are so far apart, their lives will be vastly different. Gavilan is a hard-nosed, dead-aim veteran, Calden gets queesy around dead bodies and would have trouble shooting the Pacific Ocean. Gavilan moonlights as a real estate broker, Calden as a tai-chi instructor. But unlike in other movies, where the older cop resents the gumshoe younger partner causing them both to clash, Ford and Hartnett gel rather well, each respecting each other although their lives are far more different. "Showtime", "I Spy" and "National Security" tried to spin the "buddy cop" movie so that they weren't buddies, being forced to work with each other, but, surely enough, being buddies in the end. They put most of the conflict between the buddies, and not as much in the crime they're supposed to solve. This just doesn't work, or they haven't found a way to make it work yet, and I'm glad that they eliminated the conflict between the cops and put it back to being between the cops and criminals.
There isn't much to the musician-laden supporting performances, but they're not horrible. Rappers Master P and Kurupt are O.K. as a nightclub owner and a murder suspect and Dwight Yoakam is below-average as a shady ex-cop. Isaiah Washington is pretty good as an ex-thug music mogul, a possible reference to former Death Row Records CEO Suge Knight, but the other performances are either so small or so average they aren't worth mentioning.
The screenplay, co-written by director Ron Shelton and Robert Souza, is one of the movie's best assets. The script is filled with great dialogue, one-liners, character development and subplots. It is very nicely crafted, especially when they toy with the idea, at the very end, of a conventional "Hollywood ending" only to turn it around again. The fact that the script had Calden as a cop who wants to be an actor kind of bugged me, since they did it already, and quite badly, with Eddie Murphy's character in "Showtime", but they still pulled it off much better.
Director Ron Shelton, who has had a career that consisted almost entirely of sports movies ("Bull Durham," "White Men Can't Jump"), is starting to delve into the crime genre, and he's doing it very nicely. Shelton has had real-life experience in sports as a minor-league baseball player, which makes his sports movies more authentic. But Shelton is smart, because now that he has moved into crime, he is surrounding himself with people who know have experience in this area. Shelton directed this year's phenomenal "Dark Blue" from a screenplay by David Ayer, who grew up in the crime-riddled streets of South Central L.A. For this movie, Shelton co-wrote the script with Souza, who was an L.A.P.D. detective for 25 years, a fact which adds extensive credibility to the L.A. scene that is created in this movie. Shelton's direction is wonderful, handling the action scenes and his lead actors wonderfully, with a deft style behind the camera.
Hollywood Homicide is a great "buddy cop" movie that I hope will revitalize the genre back to the good ol' days of "Beverly Hills Cop" and "Lethal Weapon." It has everything that you could want in a summer movie, and in this the Summer of Sequels, it's nice to see this come from a movie that doesn't have the number 2 in the title.