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Blu-ray Review: Be Cool

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In 1995 we got the entertaining Get Shorty, a dryly comic tale of a loan shark who desired to get into the movie business. It was a well written and acted story from director Barry Sonnenfeld, and based on the novel by Elmore Leonard. It has been a long time since I have watched that movie, so long that my memory for specific details is non-existent. Still, my memory of having see it is a fond one. Ten years later, F. Gary Gray took the reigns of the sequel, also based on an Elmore Leonard novel. I saw it twice in theaters and do not recall liking it all that much. It had moments, but I seem to remember it lacking the quality of the earlier film.

Be Cool is making its debut on Blu-ray and this marks my first time revisiting it since seeing it twice in theaters back during its original release. Why did I see it twice? I have no idea, but the second time did not improve matters any. Seeing it now, after so much time has passed has softened any hard feelings I have had for it. Simply put, Be Cool is a mildly entertaining piece of forgettable cinema. It is a movie that seems to be trying hard to be something, but it isn’t quite sure what.

The story opens with Chili Palmer (John Travolta) having a meeting with a soon to be deceased Tommy Athens (James Woods). This inspires Chili to make a play for the music business, which places him in the cross hairs of Raji (Vince Vaughan). You see, he is a promoter whose main talent, Linda Moon (Christina Milian), was stolen by Chili. At the same time, he also comes under fire from Russian mobsters who wish to get rid of a witness. Not to mention the producer, Sin Lasalle (Cedric the Entertainer), who is intent on getting back money that Tommy owed him, by going through his widow, Edie (Uma Thurman), who is now working with Chili. Plus there is Steven Tyler, some musical interludes, and a gay bodyguard who wants to be an actor (The Rock). It is kind of all over the place mixing sly banter and moments of slapstick comedy.

One thing evident is that this is clearly not at the level of the first. Whereas the first was smartly written, well acted and had a nice dry humor to it, this one seems to be too busy going for the quick skit or pop culture reference.

Set pieces like the Travolta-Thurman dance sequence try to recapture the magic of Pulp Fiction and ending up just a pale imitation. And then there is the American Idol mentality with the music sequences. That is not to saw I didn’t enjoy it, but it is a matter of it should have been much better.

John Travolta appears to be having some fun, but his performance seems to be more like an impersonation of himself playing Chili in Get Shorty. Uma Thurman does a decent job as the grieving widow, despite not getting much to do.

The fun of the work is in the supporting cast, mainly in the form of The Rock. He poked fun at his tough guy persona and his wrestling career, while also showing that he can do more than just action and is willing to take a chance. He has some great scenes, including delivering a monologue from Bring it On, and also when trying on a new suit, very funny stuff. Then there is Andre Benjamin as Dabu, Sin’s nephew, stealing the all his scenes trying to act gangsta, but never quite getting it right.

Then there is the combination of the flat out goofy scenes with Vince Vaughn, the dryly comic scenes with Travolta, and the bizarre scene that felt a bit out of place, when the Russian mob boss refers to Cedric using the “N” word, while it leads to a wonderful monologue, the more I thought about it, the more it seemed out of place with the rest of the film, and rather unnecessary.

While it has its humorous points, the film is too random and the narrative too weak. I enjoyed it enough, but it is not one I will find myself revisiting all that often. It is not a great film by any stretch, and makes for a pale sequel. It does have its fun points but the story is so chopped up that the story becomes secondary to the scene setups which brings it down. I guess it was entertaining enough.

Audio/Video. Considering how nonplussed I am with with the movie, it looks pretty darn good. The video is presented in its original 2.4:1 aspect ration. Colors are all nicely saturated and sharp. Plenty of detail is evident, also there was no evidence of edge enhancement or DNR to be found. There is some film grain, it looks like I am watching film and not something that has been scrubbed of any perceived “imperfection.” This is all good news as a lot of this movie takes place in the daylight in Los Angeles, where detail and sharp colors are quite important.

Audio is presented in the form of a DTS-HD 5.1 lossless track, and there really is no other way to go with this. Considering the musical moments, which include an Aerosmith concert and a music video shoot, sound has to be good! The surrounds are used sparingly, but work nicely during the concert and to provide ambiance on LA streets. It’s best use is during the opening assassination sequence with gunshots ringing out. Overall, this is a solid audio track accompanying nice transferred video.

Extras.

  • Be Cool, Very Cool. Standard making of featurette. Features interviews with all the principals as well as plenty of clips and a little behind the scenes footage.
  • Deleted Scenes. Includes fourteen deleted or alternate scenes. Nothing special, but interesting to see what didn’t make the cut.
  • Gag Reel. Typical collection of flubbed lines and such. Gets boring after a few minutes.
  • Music Video: The Rock as Elliot Wilhelm, “You Ain’t Woman Enough to Take My Man”
  • Close-up: Dance Partners. The dance reunion that no one really needed…
  • Close-up: The Rock, Andre 3000, Cedric the Entertainer, Christina Milian. A series of profiles/interviews with supporting cast members.
  • Theatrical Trailer.
Bottomline. I’d be lying if I said this didn’t have its moments, but it is not a great movie. The Rock and Cedric steal their scenes, Travolta is good with the dry humor, but taken together, this just doesn’t work all that great. It is more a skit colleciton than a cohesive film.

Mildly Recommended.

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