Be Cool

More like Get Real

Released in 2005, certified UK-12A. Reviewed on 01 Apr 2005 by Craig Eastman
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Given it's post-Pulp Fiction emergence it's a wonder that Get Shorty didn't receive more publicity, remaining as it did mostly under the radar. Still, over the years this Travolta vehicle and Elmore Leonard adaptation has slowly gathered momentum, building a comfortable nest on the home formats somewhere between mass commercialism and unheard-of cult status. So, as is always the way, the fruits of Hollywood's infinite wisdom deliver unto we the money-clutching public Be Cool; an adaptation of Leonard's own sequel to his much-loved novel and a witty satire on the music industry. Or rather that's what it would like to think.

Be Cool kicks off vaguely promisingly with an avalanche of nods towards it's predecessor, easing the viewer familiar with that outing into a comfortable sense of anticipation. Chili Palmer (Travolta), former shylock and now movie producer has had it up to here with Hollywood and decided it's time to get out. The reason? He's had to compromise his values in producing Martin Weir vehicle Get Lost, a sequel to his earlier movie Get Leo (the first of many references to the first movie bewildered newcomers just won't get). Ready to bail out completely and head back to Miami's less glamorous loan sharking scene, a Russian Mafia hit on Chili's music producer friend Tommy Athens (James Woods) offers him an open door to the equally twisted world of pop music production. So without further ado our Cool customer finds himself entwined with Tommy's widowed wife and co-owner of NTL Records Edie (Uma Thurman), stealing up-and-coming pop princess Linda Moon (Christina Milian) from her current management team, and generally making a nuisance of himself in yet another business that doesn't like trouble.

Changing little of the formula that served it's forerunner so well, Be Cool has on paper the kind of credentials that would suggest if not a movie with mass market potential then at least the sheer kinetic endeavour to match the former feature's wit, intelligence and general sassiness. On paper Italian Job reworker F. Gary Gray calling the shots should ensure a slick ensemble effort from a cast that, on paper, rivals Get Shorty for sheer comic potential. On paper. Indeed, on paper the sheer ammount of green paper thrown at Be Cool should at the very least have been able to buy a bloody good movie. Problem is it hasn't bought the kind of paper on which a decent script has been penned. Damn that word-paper. Improv's the the new "hotness"...

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Try as it might to ape Scott Frank's razor-sharp script for Shorty, Peter Steinfeld's effort never comes close to even vaguely thinking about threatening the acerbic wit and diamond cut profanity of that particular gem. Within the opening minute Travolta has uttered the movie's singe "F" word, passing it off with a sly dig at the PG-13 label that tries so hard to make you believe it's beeing cleverly self-referential, while in actual fact the truth is the leading man has just conceded that this kind of mass-market mediocrity only works monetarily Stateside if it isn't lumbered with an "R" rating. From here on in it's pretty much all downhill. While Johnny-boy may be beginning to look his age (there are times when you'd expect to see a Loreal logo stamped into his foundation), there's enough fresh young talent onboard this mofo to sink the Titanic.

Milian's vacant warbling aside you have the likes of Cedric The Entertainer, Vince Vaughn, Andre 3000, a radiant Uma Thurman and good old Duane himself The Rock as a gay bodyguard, coupled with the return of seasoned veterans Danny DeVito, Harvey Keitel, Robert Pastorelli and Mr. Woods. What is there to go wrong? In fairness it's the struggling input from these supporting players (Travolta can't seem all that bothered throughout the runtime) that keeps Be Cool above water, bailing out the flood waters that Gray's lacklustre direction is allowing to seep through the cracks in Steinfeld's script. Unfortunately there's a tremendous weight to be carried in the form of numerous bland musical cues clearly designed to pad out the action and remind bored viewers that this is actually all supposed to be about the music biz, and also some of the most shameless product placement of recent memory. T-Mobile Sidekick anyone? No, I hadn't heard of it either until today.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about Be Cool is that in an era of unnecessary remakes here was a movie with the potential to deliver a worthy follow-up acting as an extension of it's predecessor, yet still the big H proves grossly incapable of delivering the goods. Instead of continuing the conviction of Shorty in the ferocity of it's satirical bite, Cool's safety-conscious age rating immediately belies the capitalistic nature of it's cinematic conception. Perhaps the problem is that the music industry is even more shallow than it's movie counterpart, but given the sheer disparity in quality betwen the two Chili Palmer adventures it's hard to believe the gap could be that wide. Nah, the real problem is that rather than do the fans proud and deliver something of quality with the same slow-burning financial potential, the powers tha be would rather make us wait ten years before opting for the fast buck, quick turnaround, production line trash you hopefully will have the sense to refrain from seeing before you any time soon. Mind you, as always that's just my opinion, and I may be wrong. But I'm not.

From my £90 Ikea 3-Seater sofa I award this effort 2 out of 5 stars.

F. Gary Gray
Cast list:
John Travolta (Chili Palmer)
Uma Thurman (Edie Athens)
Christina Milian (Linda Moon)
Vince Vaughn (Raji)
Cedric The Entertainer (Sin LaSalle)
The Rock (Elliot Wilhelm)