Archive for the ‘Be Cool’ Category

217 – Be Cool

August 5, 2005

Chili Palmer (John Travolta), the wiseguy who joined the movie business in Get Shorty, decides in Be Cool that he’d rather have the freedom of creativity of the music business. But alas, it seems he’s constantly surrounded by reminders of former vocation. First his pal Tommy Athens (James Woods) is gunned down at a roadside cafe, and then a crooked producer (Harvey Keitel) refuses to let Chili have the contract of an up-and-coming, naive singer (Christina Milian).

Be Cool is a bit better than your typical sequel and is aided immeasurably by a game and able cast. Refreshingly, Travolta’s Palmer hasn’t changed much since the previous film – no character development here – he smiles a lot, hardly ever raises his voice.. Why, he’s practically a New Age Bad Guy. Although in this film, he’s clearly the Good Guy, since there are badder fish out there. Particularly Nicky Carr (Keitel), and I say that merely because Harvey Keitel almost always looks sinister right from the git-go. He doesn’t even have to say anything.

The plot’s pretty simple – while all those around him are losing their heads, Chili’s keeping his. And gets to dance with Edie Athens (Uma Thurman), the widow of the recently departed Tommy. Edie runs a record company (small label, natch), and Chili is able to help her steer things while Nicky Carr, hip-hop producer Sin LaSalle (Cedric the Entertainer), and the Russian Mafia all try to kill him. Oh, and help jump start the careers of Linda Moon (Milian) and Elliot Wilhelm (The Rock).

The Rock’s a true find here. He’s not only not playing the Toughest Guy in the Room, he’s playing a gay chauffeur/bodyguard. The toothsome Rock is really fantastic in the role, certainly much better than his previous/current vocation of pro wrestling might indicate. Elliot’s supposed to be a gullible, flamboyant gay male, and a guy with such a strongly identifiable hetero image like The Rock shouldn’t be able to pull it off – and yet he does. Even so, Elliot’s not some wussy twit; he’s a bad guy, too.

Elliot’s boss is Raji, played by the ubiquitous Vince Vaughn. Raji’s schtick is that he thinks he’s black, so every word out of his mouth is supposed to be urban slang. Raji has the moves down pretty good, but he’s still quite clueless about the culture and history of blacks. Mister the Entertainer finally gets a meaty role, and it’s thankfully not a stereotypical bad-black-man-with-a-gun part, either. His Sin LaSalle is whip-smart and – get this – a bit of a thug pretenda. Chili at one point pokes fun at Sin for thinking that wearing a throwback jersey gives him street cred.

Thurman, as the love interest, is solid – and looks great – although her role’s not particularly well developed. Her Edie is also smart – she, Sin, and Chili kind of counterbalance Raji and Dabu, played by Andre3000 of Black Eyed Peas, who’s Sin’s cousin or nephew or something – but she’s also a little insubstantial. One scene with her that really does work is at the concert when she dances with Chili, shades of Pulp Fiction.

As sequels go, Be Cool is pretty good indeed, maintaining the original’s quality – with a mostly new cast and jokes. It doesn’t lampoon its predecessor as much as simply follow it, and that’s really all an action comedy sequel needs to do.

Be Cool: ***