Hollywood Homicide

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If there were a TV show called “Hollywood Homicide,” the movie of that name that opens Friday could be a passable episode of it. As a series, it wouldn’t matter that some characters exist without being given much to do; after all, not everyone can be pivotal every week. And so what if the plot is just a very basic find-the-murderers exercise? Isn’t that what “CSI” is every week? As for those plot threads that don’t go anywhere, well, we can assume the show will get back to them in the next episode.

As a stand-alone work, however, “Hollywood Homicide” does not stand alone very well. It is pleasant enough, sure, and a fairly agreeable way to spend two hours. But it’s so lightweight and unfocused as to be thoroughly forgettable. If it didn’t have Harrison Ford, I don’t think anyone would see it even once. As it is, no one will see it twice.

Ford plays Joe Gavilan, an L.A. homicide detective who spends his off hours trying to make it in real estate, an activity that has thus far only brought expenses and headaches. His partner, the much younger K.C. Calden (Josh Hartnett), like everyone in L.A., really wants to be an actor. His moderate incompetence as a cop seems a sign he ought to pursue the arts, or at least something other than police work.

Gavilan and Calden are assigned to investigate the murders of four up-and-coming rappers. This leads them through the wild and woolly world of entertainment, with many hints that this — the interconnectedness of the city of Hollywood and show biz — should have been the film’s focus. Certainly there is much humor to be had in a grim quadruple-murder being investigated in the sunniest, loopiest, most surreal place on Earth. But much of the Hollywoodisms seem forced. The New Age goofiness, the yoga, the now-cliché image of a high-speed chase being captured by multiple TV news helicopters — this is all used to mildly humorous effect, but it wavers awkwardly between comedy and all-out parody. Are we making fun of La-La Land’s unusual components, or merely using them as plot devices?

Ford gives a winning performance, playing a character more bemused and weary than hard-boiled or cynical, a man whose lopsided half-smile got that way because it has often been employed during times when it was difficult to smile at all. We immediately sympathize with Joe Gavilan, in large part because we already love Harrison Ford.

Josh Hartnett is an undistinguished presence in the film, neither adding nor detracting. He holds his own against Ford the veteran, and maybe that’s saying something. But while Gavilan feels like he could have been played by no one other than Ford, any young male actor could have played Calden.

Directed by Ron Shelton (“Dark Blue,” “White Men Can’t Jump”), the film ambles along with a low-key wackiness about it, committed to entertaining, but unwilling (or unable) to distinctly identify what sort of entertainment it’s trying to provide. Buddy-cop? Hollywood spoof? Crime drama? It has elements of all three, but none of them strong enough to make the picture memorable.

C+ (1 hr., 52 min.; PG-13, a lot of profanity, some violent images, mild sexuality.)

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