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There’s plenty of other colorful figures knocking around, most memorably Michael Jai White as Glover’s Machiavellian bodyguard (and least memorably, Andy Dick as a movie producer), but the cast have such low star-wattage (Burke in particular virtually fades into the background) that it’s never especially entertaining, even if Matthau has directly transposed much of Leonard’s dialogue, which crackles, but never takes off.
More crucially, the writer-director ensures that the wacky dial has been turned up to 11 which 1) doesn’t make it any funnier and 2) undermines the more serious elements — it’s hard to take a shine to the ker-azzzy characters when there’s a sexual assault sub-plot in the mix as well.
Sutherland is typically good value in the lead, as is Leonard vet Charles Durning as Koesler’s conservative nemesis (the actor reportedly apologized to the writer on set for his participation in “Stick“).Whereas Wilson is as winning as ever in the 2004 version, O’Neal is charmless and unpleasant.Whereas Sara Foster’s Nancy is a virtual non-entity, Taylor-Young is magnetic (if a bit shrill in the closing stages).It’s not his most fully realized effort, but on the page, it’s a lot of fun and it’s not surprising that it’s come to the screen twice.As we’ve seen already, the recent Owen Wilson-starring version was a misfire, but unfortunately, the 1969 original was nearly as problematic.
In fairness, the novel “Be Cool” is far from Leonard’s finest hour, but it’s a masterpiece compared to the laugh-less script by Peter Steinfeld (“Analyze That“) and tension-free direction by F. Creaky and dated, the moment the sets were taken down (not helped by the presence of the now-forgotten, deeply bland Milian and cameos from the likes of Fred Durst), it seems to have been made by people with no sense of how the record industry actually works or any feel for what made “Get Shorty” so enjoyable.