A decade on from ‘Get Shorty’, all that was effortlessly cool about that hip and breezy Barry Sonnenfeld-helmed Elmore Leonard adaptation has gone AWOL from this lame, lifeless, borderline-embarrassing sequel. Loan shark-turned-film producer Chili Palmer (John Travolta) is tiring of Hollywood’s endless desire for sequels (oh, the irony), and considering his retirement from the movies. After his old music-biz buddy Tommy (James Woods) is gunned down by a toupee-wearing Russian mobster, Chili embarks on a career in music management, taking on up-and-coming songstress Linda Moon (Christina Milian). Problem is, Moon already has a manager, Raji (Vince Vaughn), a white man with black pretensions and a gay, wannabe actor as his hired muscle (The Rock). Soon Chili’s mixing it with the Russian mafia, three Hummers full of gangsta rappers, and Harvey Keitel’s industry heavyweight, and finding his new racket has even more sharks in it than Hollywood. Uma Thurman slinks by as Tommy’s lithe, tanned widow, a former ‘laundry girl’ to Aerosmith who hooks him up with Steve Tyler in an uncomfortable cameo. Tyler suggests that Moon perform with the band at the Hollywood Bowl and – hey, presto – a star is born.
Whereas ‘Get Shorty’ fizzed and crackled, faithfully serving Leonard’s pulp creations as well as offering up an efficient if none-too-biting swipe at Tinseltown, ‘Be Cool’ registers as neither satire nor comedy. Gray’s direction is anonymous, Peter Steinfeld’s script toothless, and Travolta fails to evoke any of Chili’s former laid-back charm. Only OutKast’s Andre 3000 emerges with dignity, his itchy-trigger-fingered gangsta Dabu deserving of a movie of his own, and a far better one than this sorry, self-referential affair.