John Travolta is back as Chili Palmer in Be Cool, a sequel to the 1995 comedy Get Shorty. This time, Chili becomes a different kind of “hit” man – he abandons the movie industry to bring his wiseguy skills and negotiation tactics to the music business. When a friend is offed while they’re at lunch, Chili takes the opportunity to visit the guy’s wife, Edie (Thurman), and pitch himself as her new business partner at an independent record label. With a promising young pop-star-in-training as his protégé (Milian), Chili has to juggle her faux-urban manager (Vaughn), his gay, wannabe-actor bodyguard (The Rock), Russian mobsters, and an eloquent gangsta music producer (Cedric) to save the label and land a hit – and keep from getting popped himself... (from BeCoolMovie.com)
It's interesting to see the sequel to a movie you've never seen. I let the 1995 Barry Sonnenfield-directed comedy Get Shorty pass me by due to its R-rating and nearly 100 uses of the "f" word. Not my idea of entertainment. But, surprisingly, Be Cool is the 2005 sequel to the original, directed by F. Gary Gray (The Italian Job) and this time around has been made for a PG-13 rating. An ensemble cast carries this film, and at the same time dares to push the alotted content for a PG-13 rating.
First off, the story takes its lead, Chili Palmer, played by John Travolta, out of the movie business that Get Shorty brought him into, and brings him to the music business. Colorful characters and tongue-in-cheek writing make this a fun film to watch, but constant profanity and some brutal violence make this one hard picture to get through.
Vince Vaughn steals the show with his portrayal of the wanna-be Urban manager Raji as he ghetto-talks his way in and out of trouble and dresses about as flamboyantly as Snoop Dogg. Just hearing Vaughn utter lines like "Stop hatin', start participatin'!" to a bold-faced character like The Rock is just priceless. The Rock equally steals the show as the wanna-be actor bodyguard to Raji. But as crude as the language often is, characters are constantly bashing on his character for being gay, quickly spout derogatory insults as "f*g" and "f*ggot." And in the same offensive turn, the word "n*gger" is used many times in some songs and then used as an insult from a Russian to an African American. Be Cool is all about stereotypes, but never takes itself seriously for a second. The whole movie winks at the audience from start to finish (with the opening scene involving Chili complaining about movie sequels and MPAA ratings allowing only 1 "f" word in a PG-13 -- to which he uses the word to denounce it). But it really is a shame the film isn't more sensitive to offensive material or stereotypes. While I realize their attempt may be "all in good fun," toes are inevitably stepped on. The film is entertaining from a story standpoint, but ultimately taints its end result with a movie that has no business being seen by younger audiences and thus probably deserves an R rating instead.
With that said, I'll elaborate further on content. While the hundred "f" words are non existant in the second Palmer outing, almost 40 "s" words, almost 30 "a" words, and almost a dozen "g*dd*mn's" take their place. While some may argue that this is "realistic" language for the time, the place, and the industry, it just doesn't add to the entertainment value of the film. But hey, maybe that's just me? As far as violence goes, we see a character hit with a baseball bat and, upon falling to the ground, is beaten to death outside of the camera shot. Later, we see a man shot to death for insulting another man and then see a glimpse of the body as it is shot again. Other lethal and nonlethal violence is also present.
Did I mention the soundtrack was a waste? If it wasn't Black Eyed Peas' distasteful and ultimately lame "Sexy" alone pushing the boundaries of the rating, there were other songs laden with "s" words, "b*tch," and "n*gger" scattered throughout the movie. One of the only noteworthy songs was by Sixpence None the Richer, but even then it was the overplayed "Kiss Me" which was used almost exactly the same way it was used in How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days. John Powell, who scored Gray's Italian Job did whatever little composing that was used in the film, and even music from that film was lifted and reused here.
Be Cool could have been a great flick to return to in the future when in need of a good laugh, but is ultimately a vulgar cinematic display. I'd only suggest checking it out if you ever can find it on TV on a station that still edits their movies (and good luck finding one). If toned down drastically, I would have rated the film much higher, but as such I can only rate it a sorry two stars out of five.- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 3/6/05)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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