A Kinda Lethal Weapon

The buddy movie/action comedy "Hollywood Homicide," with Harrison Ford and Josh Hartnett, is nothing if not a highly marketable commodity. Unfortunately, that's about all it is--a package designed to be sold. As a movie, it's oddly listless from the get-go, when odd-couple LAPD partners Ford and Hartnett show up at the scene of a rap-club murder and the discussion turns to their clashing dietary preferences. The grumpy old vet, Joe Gavilan (Ford), is a red-meat guy--hamburger, no mayo. The neophyte, K. C. Calden (Hartnett), wants a veggie sandwich--with bean sprouts, of course. How are these guys ever gonna get along, much less solve a murder case? Are we laughing yet?

K.C.'s heart isn't into detective work. He moonlights as a yoga instructor whose students, every one of 'em, are lithe young women eager for some after-school instruction. But what he really wants to do is act. The haggard, debt-ridden Joe also has a sideline selling real estate, resulting in many desperate cell-phone negotiations that always come at comically inappropriate times, i.e., while chasing bad guys. The villain of the piece is power-hungry rap mogul Antoine Sartain (Isaiah Washington), who has a bad habit of offing his own talent when they stray from the fold. This thread, baldly lifted from rumors about Suge Knight and Death Row Records, could have made for an intriguing tale, but it's just a generic crime backdrop here. Speaking of generic: K.C. happens to be the son of a cop who died on duty under mysterious circumstances. Think the killer might be involved in this case? Think we care?

Inside this numbingly formulaic action comedy there's a small, quirky movie not screaming hard enough to get out--the kind of movie that director and co-writer Ron Shelton ("Bull Durham," "Tin Cup") could have had some real fun with. The notion of cops with mundane double lives has potential, but as soon as reality rears its lovely head it's suffocated, much the way the striking, mature sensuality of Lena Olin--who plays Joe's girlfriend, a radio psychic--gets lost amid the pro forma car chases and shoot-outs. You can tell that Shelton doesn't have the heart for this stuff. Nor does he have the technique to fake it with any zest. Ford's forte has never been broad comedy, but he gives it a real try: what laughs there are belong to him. Hartnett seems ill at ease, loosening up only when he's making fun of himself as a wanna-be actor rehearsing "A Streetcar Named Desire." How could so many talented people make such a tepid, superfluous movie? It's easy: that's what happens when you listen to your inner marketer instead of your muse.