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HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE A few weeks ago when The Matrix Reloaded opened, much of the talk centered around the highway chase sequence that lasts a full 15 minutes. But that set piece is mere child's play when compared to the climactic chase that closes Hollywood Homicide: This one lasts a full three hours. Or so it seems. Truth be told, I can't pinpoint exactly how long this interminable sequence goes on, because during that portion of this dreadful action-comedy, my brain was so numb that even a lobotomy would have seemed like a welcome diversion. Charitable moviegoers -- and I use "charitable" to the extent that Mother Teresa comparisons are in order -- might describe this disaster as the perfect popcorn picture, but even that's provided you like your bag filled with burnt pieces and unpopped kernels. Harrison Ford (tired and bored) and Josh Hartnett (bland and boring) play the usual mismatched cops -- one's old and cranky, the other young and sensitive -- who spend as much time pursuing outside interests (real estate and acting, respectively) as they do investigating the slayings of four rappers. Writer-director Ron Shelton, a long way from the career high point of Bull Durham, has crammed this picture with the sort of forced comedy generally found in bad Nora Ephron movies, while the action sequences prove to be clumsily staged and rarely exciting. Hartnett is a Next Big Thing who deserves to become a Where Are They Now?; as for Ford, there's simply no way to defend his sell-out choices anymore.
THE IN-LAWS While certainly no classic, The In-Laws is an enjoyable comedy that includes among its attributes a clever premise, a witty script that's packed with choice dialogue, two beautifully matched lead actors, and a supporting performer who makes off with the picture like a Bechtel bandit in the night. But enough about the 1979 version. The new In-Laws is a sorry excuse for a comedy, a movie that completely disregards all the elements that made its predecessor such a delight. Instead of Alan Arkin and Peter Falk, we get Albert Brooks and Michael Douglas, with Brooks cast as a meek podiatrist who gets caught up in the misadventures of his daughter's future father-in-law (Douglas), a CIA agent whose reckless behavior places them in numerous dire predicaments. This deadening action-comedy hybrid is neither exciting nor funny, and it further suffers from an embarrassing turn by David Suchet as a homosexual arms dealer who spends an exorbitant amount of screen time trying to get Brooks out of his pants so he can admire his "fat cobra" (Suchet is obviously meant to be this movie's scene stealer, but he's no match for the original's Richard Libertini, who was a hoot as an eccentric Latin American dictator). Forget the movie's wedding theme: On the contrary, funeral services are now being held at a multiplex near you.
INTACTO Producers who foster burgeoning young talent don't receive much ink, so let's hear it for Spain's Fernando Bovaira: The man who (among other achievements) helped writer-director Alejandro Amenabar bring both Abre Los Ojos and The Others to the screen more recently served as executive producer on this striking work of originality from debuting writer-director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. This unique drama posits that "luck" isn't some intangible element that randomly occurs to people but rather a commodity that can be fostered, traded and even stolen by those who can recognize and harness its awesome might. Fresnadillo's story (co-written with Andres Koppel) smoothly follows four interesting characters who are all blessed (cursed?) with the "gift": a Holocaust survivor (Max Von Sydow) against whom all other lucky souls are measured; his former protege (Eusebio Poncela), stripped of his powers and now seeking retribution; a bank robber (Leonardo Sbaraglia) who's also the sole survivor of an airplane crash that killed hundreds of people; and a dedicated cop (Monica Lopez) haunted by the deaths of her husband and daughter. Coming up with this unique concept was only half the battle, but Fresnadillo wins the war outright in a manner that's both playful -- the games that these gamblers hold to test their limits are clever -- and profound: Does an individual always create his or her own luck, or does fate occasionally supersede? 1/2