Ten years ago, the amusing "Get Shorty," based on the Elmore Leonard novel, introduced John Travolta as Chili Palmer, a Miami loan shark and movie fan, who on a trip to L.A. became convinced the motion picture business was a snap compared to wheeling and dealing in the underworld. Palmer is back in "Be Cool," and although Travolta is as smooth as ever, the picture is a bust, a grimly unfunny comedy with no connection to reality, and worst of all, running on and on for two dismal hours.
Adapted by Peter Steinfeld from Leonard's sequel novel of the same name, "Be Cool" is actually hopelessly square -- depressingly, Leonard is one of the film's executive producers. Director F. Gary Gray, who did a bang-up job with "The Italian Job" remake, is torpedoed here by rotten material.
This time Chili, ever the sleek man in black, delves into the music business. On the one hand, his old pal Tommy Athens (James Woods) is rubbed out in a drive-by as he pitches his story of success in the recording industry, and on the other, Chili, a gentleman at heart, rescues up-and-coming singer Linda Moon (Christina Milian) from her bullying manager Raji (Vince Vaughn), who struggles to talk like a gangsta. Pretty soon Chili is also coming to the rescue of Athens' widow and business partner (Uma Thurman), whose company is in trouble and is being menaced by a music producer (Cedric the Entertainer) and his many minions. Chili lines Moon up with Aerosmith's Steven Tyler (who plays himself and is not a pretty sight in close-ups) to perform as the band's opening act. Things quickly become complicated and tedious, with the Russian Mafia and the snarly head of a talent management company (Harvey Keitel) also getting into the act.