The Films of Ron Shelton
Bull Durham (April 4/08)
Bull Durham remains one of most entertaining and flat-out indelible baseball films within modern cinema, as Ron Shelton's exceedingly clever screenplay is complemented by the three leads' seriously effective work. Kevin Costner stars as Crash Davis, an aging minor-league catcher who agrees to play for the Durham Bulls - where he's to help a promising young pitcher (Tim Robbins' Ebby) get his act together. Complications ensue after both Crash and Ebby find themselves competing for the affections of sultry groupie Annie (Susan Sarandon), whose penchant for sleeping with (and subsequently molding) one Bull a year has made her something of a legend among the various players. It hardly comes as a surprise to learn that Shelton was once a semi-professional baseballer himself, given the degree of authenticity with which the filmmaker has infused the proceedings (ie he effectively captures the camaraderie that one would expect within such an organization). There's little doubt that the film irresistibly easy-going sensibility carries it through sporadic lulls within the narrative, although - admittedly - the third act's increasingly somber tone does ensure that the whole thing peters out as it approaches its conclusion. Yet it's clear that the movie manages to enthrall even through its less-than-effective stretches, with Costner's expectedly (and effortlessly) charismatic performance - as well as the inclusion of several genuinely hilarious sequences - ultimately proving instrumental in Bull Durham's success.
White Men Can't Jump
Play It to the Bone
Hollywood Homicide (June 10/03)
Hollywood Homicide marks Harrison Ford's most relaxed performance since Six Days, Seven Nights - following somber turns in films like Random Hearts and last year's K19: The Widowmaker. This film returns Ford to the sort of role that made him famous: The easy-going tough guy. As the film opens, we meet Joe Gavilan (Harrison Ford) and K.C. Calden (Josh Hartnett) - detectives on the Hollywood beat. Their latest case, involving a popular rap group that was gunned down in a crowded night club, seems to be the furthest thing from their minds, as each is pursuing a separate career: Gavilan is a frustrated real estate agent who's been trying to unload an expensive property for years, while Calden works as a yoga instructor on the side (and indeed, aspires to be an actor someday). But when it becomes clear that the villainous Sartain (Isaiah Washington), the owner of the rap label that housed the murdered act, had something to do with the crime, Gavilan and Calden buckle down and begin to investigate. Though consistently entertaining, Hollywood Homicide is overlong by about twenty minutes and (even more problematic) contains far more subplots than necessary. The way the movie works is, Gavilan and Calden receive the case within the first half hour, and that's about the last we hear about it for another 45 minutes. The entire middle section of the film is devoted to various other elements that have been crammed into the screenplay - which, not surprisingly, doesn't exactly do wonders for the film's flow. There's a lot of superfluous stuff here - from the Internal Affairs cop with a grudge against Gavilan to Calden's preparation for an important performance of A Streetcar Named Desire - when all we really want is to see these two cops work the case. To be fair, Hollywood Homicide is more of a comedy than anything else, but still, the barrage of subplots eventually becomes overwhelming. But despite that seemingly insurmountable liability, the film does remain watchable throughout - mostly due to Ford's ingratiating performance. Ford's clearly having a lot of fun here, and it was certainly a pleasure watching him shed the monotone voice he's been employing for his past few flicks. And his chemistry with Hartnett is surprisingly effective, though Hartnett himself isn't. He's an able enough actor, but his distinct lack of charisma certainly hurts him (especially when placed next to someone like Ford). The supporting cast, including everyone from Eric Idle to Master P, keeps things interesting during the film's frequent lulls. But it's the final half hour that bumps the movie up to three stars (from two and a half). Starting with an unexpectedly exciting car chase and culminating with Ford fighting the villain on a rooftop, this section of the film is incredibly entertaining (even if it's not always plausible).