Be Cool

Elmore Leonard is probably pissed. A while ago, Leonard's novels turned into films like Out of Sight, Jackie Brown, and Get Shorty. Recently, his novels turned into Karen Sisco, a cancelled ABC series based on the characters in Out of Sight, The Big Bounce, and now, Be Cool, a limp follow-up to the highly amusing Get Shorty. Be Cool is a nearly two-hour snooze fest of dull characters that think they are interesting, and a boring trip into the world of music. Shylock Chili Palmer (John Travolta, Ladder 49, A Love Song for Bobby Long) conquered the world of movies, and now sets out to do the same to the music world.

This is how Travolta plays Palmer: squint a lot, strut, talk from the front of the mouth, and purse lips. It's a cheap way to develop a character. In Get Shorty, it was funny when he told people "look at me." Travolta seemed tough, and scary. When he says the same here, or "be cool," it is just lame. He looks and sounds like Travolta saying "be cool." Even a Pulp Fiction reunion on the dance floor with Uma Thurman (Kill Bill Vol. 2, Paycheck) fails to ignite any sort of interest, and feels more like audience pandering. Thurman is Edie Athens, wife of record producer Tommy Athens (James Woods, Northfork, This Girl's Life), killed by a bunch of Russians. Palmer steps in to help out, and finds himself embroiled in a whole bunch of problems. Yes, Edie is a widow, yet the plot insists on a relationship between her and Palmer. That's really a bit sick, but worse is that the two have no chemistry.

The Athens' company owes $300K to rapper Sin LaSalle (Cedric the Entertainer, Man of the House, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events), and LaSalle wants to collect his money. The Russians are still after Edie. And Travolta wants to produce a record for hot young prospect Linda Moon (Christian Milian, Man of the House, Torque). Moon is still under contract with Raji (Vince Vaughn, Anchorman, Dodgeball), a white guy who thinks he's black. Raji works with Nick Carr (Harvey Keitel, National Treasure, Taking Sides), who stole LaSalle from the Athens. Of course, Palmer will figure out a way to navigate deftly through all of this unscathed.

The setup is promising, but director F. Gary Gray (The Italian Job, A Man Apart) and adapter Peter Steinfeld (Analyze That, Drowning Mona) drop the ball. People love Leonard for his wonderful dialogue, and Steinfeld sucks the life out of all of it. Be Cool drags on, and the double-crossing and scheming by Palmer is not enough to keep people interested. Travolta is the reason for this. For some reason, he thinks he is a great actor. He is not. He has little variations on his same shtick for every film he does, and it's old. Vaughn 'complements' Travolta with an equally annoying performance. The good news is that there are two great performances by Outkast's Andre 3000 (Hollywood Homicide) and the Rock (Walking Tall, The Rundown). Andre 3000 is one of LaSalle's idiot relatives, and the Rock is Raji's bodyguard, who may or may not be gay. Andre 3000 has a nice screen presence, and the Rock mercilessly rips apart his macho image.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 54 minutes, Rated PG-13 for violence, sensuality, and language including sexual references.

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