Hollywood Homicide

June, 2003, Thriller

When some male movie stars reach a certain age, they can find themselves confronting a celluloid mid-career crisis, which often results in any one or all of the following three things; (1) an attempt to find the inner child, (2) romance with a young lovely not yet born when the actor reached the legal drinking age and (3) really bad career moves. Sadly, Harrison Ford just hit that trifecta, which he demonstrates, with truly painful awfulness, in this labored and utterly asinine film.

Ford bids fair to being described one day as his generation's Charlton Heston, in that he has made a good living embodying characters with cinematic gravitas. Whether he's playing the President, (Air Force One) a CIA hero, (Patriot Games) or even a Russian submarine captain, (K-19: The Widowmaker) Ford's appeal lies in his ability to replicate, over and over, a persona that expects--indeed demands--- respect. You may not like him, but you've got to take him seriously, because like Heston, that's how he so obviously takes himself. So what on earth possessed him to try on the role of Joe Gavilan, a Los Angles detective sergeant with a loopy new-age partner and a part-time job as a real estate broker? That's a role which requires the kind of self mockery a George Clooney or Burt Reynolds, (in his prime) could pull off, but not the man who battled primordial evil in epics like Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark

Director Ron Shelton, whose sports comedies, (Bull Durham, White Men Can't Jump, Tin Cup) have been among the very best in that genre over the past couple of decades, knows that good characters in pro sports, (natural heroes by definition) must possess enough human foibles to make them both interesting and bearable. In the action-comedy genre however, the best characters aren't legitimately well-rounded at all; they're odd-ball types and have to be inhabited by actors with a mixture of quirk and bravado that appeals to the audience even as the actor distances himself from their excesses. The trick doesn't lie in trying to be one of the guys, but in doing things regular males would like to be able to pull off, even though the audience knows full will they're not capable of it. Shelton tries hard to blend fast-paced humor and police action here but winds up embarrassing himself with this convoluted story about gangsta rappers in the music industry and dirty cops. Josh Hartnett woks hard at semi-intelligence as K.C. Calden, Gavilan's young assistant who thinks be may want to abandon the force and become an actor. These two juggle a call-girl informant, yoga lessons, a late-night radio talk show host and Gavilan's ex wives in a plot as witless as it is tedious; by the time the obligatory final chase scene occurs, the audience doesn't crave closure; it just wants the whole thing to curl up like the bad guys-- and die. The film's infrequent comedic scenes are milked endlessly; has Shelton, (who co-wrote the script) forgotten the crisp pacing he brought to his earlier sports comedies?

But "Hollywood's" real disaster lies in Ford's utterly self-conscious portrayal of the grunting, grimacing Gavilan, whose efforts at real estate negotiation, bicycle riding and kinky love-making have all the zest and insouciance of a denture ad on the evening news. Ford tries to convey a sense that, as an actor, he's really having a good time up there on the screen, but the results belie the intention. His use of exasperation, effectively employed as a technique when playing characters like Hans Solo and Indiana Jones, emerges this time as simple befuddlement; his Gavilan commits the most unforgivable sin possible in this type of film--he's neither admirable nor likeable, and certainly not interesting. 

From the perspective of Ford's career this movie's title is a misnomer-it should be Hollywood Suicide.  

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