Retro Review: Be Cool

Chili Palmer is probably one of the most interesting characters John Travolta has brought to the screen right beside Vincent Vega and Tony Manero. Travolta’s gangster with an obsession with the movie business was such a delight in 1995’s “Get Shorty”. So why did it take him 10 years to step back into Chili’s shoes?

“Be Cool” finds slick gangster Chili Palmer visiting with record mogul Tommy Athens (James Woods). Athens wants Chili to produce a movie on his life but really Chili just wants out of the movie business. As their meeting concludes, Chili exits to the men’s room and the patio where he met with Athens is littered with bullets from a drive-by shooting leaving Athens dead. Welcome to the music business, Chili.

Chili visits Edie Athens (Uma Thurman), the widow of Tommy Athens, where he asks Edie if he could become her new partner on the record label left to her by Tommy. She agrees.

Chili’s first project as a new record mogul is to try to launch singing sensation Linda Moon (Christina Milian). The only people standing in Chili’s way are a corrupt record mogul (Harvey Keitel), her manager Raji (Vince Vaughn) and his muscle, Elliot Wilhelm (The Rock).

How different is the music business from the movie business? Will Chili fit in this time? Will he be able to help out Moon?

“Be Cool” is one of those comedies that looks good on paper but suffers from a lack of jokes.

What is its saving grace are some solid performances from Travolta and The Rock. Travolta is flawless in his return to the character and is excellent as the cool straight hitman to all the zany characters around him. One of those zany characters is The Rock’s flamboyant and sexually-confused thug. His performance is utterly hilarious as he makes fun of himself in so many ways. He is such a riot.

I also liked the performances from Cedric the Entertainer and rapper Andre 3000 who play characters who also have an invested interest in Moon. Cedric has such a strong presence and has the perfect way of blending comedy and serious in his character. His sidekick Andre is a trigger-happy thug who seems to be a little unbalanced.

The faults I had with the film were the extremely annoying and painful performance by Vince Vaughn and the utterly wasted performance from Uma Thurman. Vaughn’s whole character ruined so many things in this movie for me. As for Thurman, her role was so two-dimensional that a lot of the time I wondered why she was even in the film.

I also had some problems with following the plot and who was related to whom and what their interest was in either Moon or Edie’s indie record label. I also found myself missing Barry Sonnenfeld who directed the first film. His timing and style is deeply missed here.

As a whole I was disappointed in some respects with the sequel to the now classic 90’s comedy, “Get Shorty”.

3 out of 5

So Says the Soothsayer.

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