Eventually a subtle satire on the cop/buddy genre, takes way too long to reach it.
Jings, if this hasn't had quite the mauling from the critics. I'm not going to hold it up as a paragon of filmmaking but it deserves better than the blatant dismissal it's received. I'm going to arbitrarily attribute this to it having the two dullest working titles I've ever heard, those being the descriptive Untitled Harrison Ford Starrer and the more literal Two Cops. I can't back that up with paperwork however.
Joe Gavilan (Harrison Ford) is a gruff, world weary cop with financial worries, moonlighting as an estate agent with an albatross of a house he cannot shift. His partner, K.C. Calden (Josh Hartnett) is a young guy having second thoughts about this whole cop business, thinking of jacking it in for a career in acting. He also moonlights, this time as a yoga instructor. They're called on to investigate a nightclub shooting that leaves a promising hip-hop act with a variety of unwanted perforations.
They go about the slow, laborious process of patching together the events and leads, while not really doing much of interest. The first hour shows some similarity with Shelton's last effort Dark Blue, largely in it's lethargic pacing. Their investigation plods along a route that is plausible, if perhaps not realistic. Gavilan bemoans his lot and tries to flog his house to the owner of the shot-up club. Calden continues sleeping with as many young women as possible and rehearsing lines from A Street Car Named Desire for his upcoming showcase. The two cops trade banter in the usual cop film fashion, and while it's not the most inspirational material it's at least decent. It's all a bit dull, though.
Things barely liven up once a few strings are pulled behind the scenes and Gavilan is investigated by Internal Affairs for financial irregularities and the trumped up charge of 'co-mingling of funds'. His kind hearted Chief buys him a little more time to work out whose cage Gavilan has rattled, and their break comes with the eventual tracking of an eye-witness of the shooting. The IA officer Bennie Macko (Bruce Greenwood) grows ever more determined to bust Gavilan not only for causing him past embarrassment by proving him wrong on a case but also because he's sleeping with his ex, the radio psychic Ruby (Lena Olin).
It's only now, after about an hour so of fairly tepid clich?s and borderline boredom that hints appear that this is supposed to be dull. It makes the 'Hollywood Ending' that the film eventually builds to something greater than the Lethal Weapon knock-off that on face value it is. The eye-witness, K-Ro (Kurupt, also in Sheltons' Dark Blue) decides to do a runner from his momma's house, prompting one of the most bizarre police chases in cop film history. K-Ro hops into a pedalo and dashes off at top speed over a watercourse, which equates to about walking speed. K.C. jogs over a bridge to intercept him on the other side, so K-Ro tries to turn round and ends up in the briny. This farcical aquatic ceremony continues for a while until Gavilan cuts him off at the pass and floors him. They take him to a waterfront for unspecified reasons only to be the victim of a drive-by-shooting attempt that misses its mark.
Having teased us with a few leaden clich?s mixed with a sort of vague realism that ends up feeling like NYPB Blue for the first hour, Shelton and writer Robert Souza decide to hit every remaining action and cop clich? on the way out, tying together a corrupt cop implicated in the death of K.C.'s father and a corrupt record executive Antoine Sartain (Isaiah Washington) responsible for the deaths of his own artists as a warning to others, as K.C. and Gavilan chase the criminals in one of the better executed car chases of recent times using suitably overdramatic skids, scrapes and chopper coverage. While this chaotic chase is unfolding, Gavilan is calmly negotiating a real estate deal between a previously featured film producer (Martin Landau in a role almost best described as a cameo) and the club owner.
The many little incongruous events and actions that permeate the second half of the film are open to interpretation, and it's here the film lives or dies. If you see these as a pretty subtle satire of the movie clich?s, you'll be able to sit back and be amused by the havoc unleashed as Shelton labours to find ways to have cars crash through boxes and even works in a contractually obligated rooftop showdown for the climax. Oh, and Gavilan's non-payoff line to Sartain is the best payoff line in the last year, by some strange logic inversion.
If you don't notice these little hints or simply don't buy into them, you'll have as dull a time during the chase as you did in the set-up. The only hugely obvious comment on movie to actual behaviour comes when K.C attempts a daring leap to ground level intending his fall to be broken by the canopy of a vendors cart. He seems genuinely surprised (and hurt) when it doesn't have the exact cushioning effect that he envisioned. Everything else is more of the wink and the nod variety, the manifold cameos and Gavilans' temporary commandeering of a lovely pink bike not withstanding.
It's a strange mix. It's an action film that's trying to be a character study. Hartnett is amiable enough in his role but it's Harrison Ford who is rightly the focus of attention. As far as I'm concerned the man's bullet-proof; he was Han Solo and Indiana Jones, for the love of God. He's exempt from criticism forevermore. He's had enough variance that he's not exactly typecast but the gruff, world-weary character that he's called on to play is no stranger to Ford. He plays it so well it's difficult to find flaw. The few occasions he pushes the 'disgruntled veteran' card to extremes it's for comic effect, as with his pre-coital line to Rose that "If I take my gingko I can remember where the Viagra is". His deadpan reading of lines from Streetcar is hilarious, and why Ford is used sparingly in films these days baffles me. Again this is all in the second half of the film when it's decided to let it's hair down and have a bit of fun. Decent as the characters are, they can't carry an otherwise dull film. Strangely as a character piece it works better after things start exploding than it does when it's entirely dialogue. This an impressive if baffling feat.
By the end of the film I was smiling, although that doesn't excuse the first hour's non-entertainment. It's a brave attempt but the absolute lack of any sort of spark in the first section means that this film has to remain a long way from greatness. On many other days this would have hurt it's rating more, but I've taken my gingko today.
Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 3/5 TippyMarks.
Josh Hartnett (K.C. Calden)
Lena Olin (Ruby)
Bruce Greenwood (Lt. Bennie Macko)
Isaiah Washington (Antoine Sartain)
Lolita Davidovich (Cleo Ricard)
Master P (Julius Armas)
Dwight Yoakam (Leroy Wasley)
Martin Landau (Jerry Duran)
Lou Diamond Phillips (Wanda)
Gladys Knight (Olivia Robidoux)