Confusing, unengaging 'Hollywood Homicide' puts viewers in killer mood

In the appallingly bad 'Hollywood Homicide,' writer-director Ron Shelton ('Bull Durham,' 'Tin Cup') attempts to graft his anecdotal approach to character-driven comedy onto the tired, '80s-style cop-buddy script formula.

The result is a movie that doesn't have a plot so much as it has random events and characters thrown willy-nilly at the screen without regard for coherence.

The ostensible plot follows detectives Joe Gavilan (Harrison Ford) and K.C. Calden (Josh Hartnett) as they investigate the murders of a trio of rappers. The two seem to have stumbled into police work almost by accident. Gavilan is just as committed to his sideline as a real estate agent, and Calden is thinking about quitting to become an actor; both of these slim character quirks become full-blown subplots in a movie already juggling a half-dozen story lines.

Gavilan, for example, is being investigated by an Internal Affairs officer (Bruce Greenwood) whose agenda isn't explained until two-thirds of the way through the film. Meanwhile the real villain of the piece, the head of a major hip-hop label (Isaiah Washington), is connected to a dirty cop (Dwight Yoakum) who's connected to Gavilan and, I kid you not, also connected to Calden's dead police officer father.

And those are just the characters with some tenuous connection to the story itself. There's also a number of people who come and go Ñ like a madam (Lolita Davidovich) with information that Gavilan wants and a girl who shows up in Calden's hot tub never to be seen again Ñ who have nothing to do with the plot whatsoever.

Adding to the confusion are the handful of recognizable actors with little to do (like Lena Olin as Gavilan's girlfriend and Keith David as the stereotypical lieutenant with a temper) interspersed with famous faces in pointless cameos. Gladys Knight is the mother of a witness; Eric Idle is under arrest at the police station; Smokey Robinson is a cabdriver. We keep expecting these people to do something Ñ anything! Ñ to propel the plot, but they simply show up long enough to be recognized, then vanish.

The police procedure takes a back seat to Gavilan's attempts to sell a producer's mansion, and a few scenes of him dallying with his lady friend, and to Calden's rehearsing for a performance of 'A Streetcar Named Desire.' Trying to figure out what's worth remembering and which characters will never be seen again is exhausting and ultimately unfulfilling. Eventually Shelton ties everything together in the flimsiest way possible, capping the film with an excruciatingly long chase through Ñ of course Ñ downtown Hollywood.

The most impressive thing about this film is Ford's commitment to his role. For two hours he mugs, rolls his eyes and fakes fistfights with men a foot taller and half his age. All the while he never gives any indication he's aware that this is the most dreadful film of his entire career. When the 60-year-old actor is hit by a car, then gets up, keeps running and actually catches his subject on foot, it's hard to tell whether we're supposed to accept this as normal for a senior citizen or be impressed with his supernatural abilities.

'Hollywood Homicide' is the sort of film that leaves you wondering how the hell it ever got made. And wishing that they hadn't bothered.

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