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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
dir F Gary Gray
scr Peter Steinfeld
with John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Vince Vaughn, Christina Milian, The Rock, Cedric the Entertainer, Harvey Keitel, André Benjamin, Robert Pastorelli, Debi Mazar, Paul Adelstein, Kimberly J Brown, Steven Tyler, Danny DeVito, James Woods, Seth Green
release US 4.Mar.05, UK 1.Apr.05
05/US MGM 1h58
Back together again: Travolta and Thurman
Ten years after the hilariously sharp Get Shorty, Travolta is back as hitman-cum-mogul Chili Palmer for more. There's enough genuine humour here to keep us chucking, but an overcrowded cast and plot keep it from coming close to the original.
After a decade in movies, Chili needs a new challenge. He decides to break into the music business with gifted young singer Linda Moon (Milian), but he needs to buy her contract from a couple of music execs (Keitel and Vaughn), who are reluctant to let her go. Meanwhile, the widow (Thurman) of one of Chili's old friends is trying to salvage her troubled record label, while a gangsta music producer (Cedric) demands the cash she owes him.
Director Gray wastes no time launching into this convoluted story--there's no set-up at all, so we're off balance from the beginning. We never get the chance to develop any perspective on the events or any attachment to the characters. And there are a lot of characters, most of whom fall into the goofy pastiche category. Travolta is effortlessly cool as the calm at the centre of the storm. Thurman is cute and underused; her dance-floor reunion with Travolta is surprisingly anticlimactic. Vaughn is hilariously silly as the white guy who desperately wants to be black. Benjamin is unexpectedly funny as an inept thug. And the film's stolen by The Rock as a gay wannabe-actor bodyguard--a role that could have descended into offensive cliche, but turns out to be the film's true heart. His monolog from Bring it On is classic.
Despite the on-screen chaos, the film is nicely orchestrated by Gray. It looks superb, and he sustains a freewheeling comic tone that's buoyed with terrific throwaway jokes. Scenes are full of witty cameos and astute jabs at the music and movie industries, although some of the inside gags are laboured and corny (such as Travolta's opening anti-sequel speech). And the plot itself is a silly fantasy that goes for broad strokes where a more finely tuned satire might have actually hit a nerve. An enjoyable but mostly forgettable sequel.
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