Chili Palmer helps the widow of an executed friend to resurrect a record company using the talents of young and talented female vocalist and songwriter. The plot is complicated by several facts:In a loan-shark subplot from Get Shorty of "who owns who", Chili makes deals and owns all the players as a "producer".
The Russian Mafia (headed by Alex Kubik as Roman Bulkin) are trying to kill Chili because he witnessed the execution of Athens.
Athens' record company owes money to a gangster/producer, Sin LaSalle.
Chili Palmer (John Travolta), restless after years of filmmaking, enters the music industry after witnessing the execution, by a Russian mob, of his friend Tommy Athens (James Woods), owner of a record company. Chili offers to help his friend's widow, Edie Athens (Uma Thurman), manage the failing business, which owes $300,000 to hip-hop producer Sin LaSalle (Cedric the Entertainer).
Chili is impressed by singer Linda Moon (Christina Milian) and helps free her from contractual obligations to Nick Carr (Harvey Keitel) and Raji (Vince Vaughn), who has a gay Samoan bodyguard named Elliott (The Rock), an aspiring actor and the butt of Carr and Raji's homophobic jokes. Carr and Raji hire a hitman, Joe "Loop" Lupino (Robert Pastorelli) to kill Chili before he can save Edie's company by arranging a live performance for Linda along with Steven Tyler and Aerosmith.
Lasalle demands payment of the $300,000, but agrees to give Chili a few days to get the money plus the vig. When the Russians attempt to kill Chili, Joe Loop mistakenly kills Ivan Argianiyev (George Fisher), the Russian Mob's hitman. Carr is furious about the mistake. Raji then kills Loop with a metal baseball bat after Loop "disrespects" him.
Carr then tries to trick Chili by handing him a pawn ticket, claiming that Linda's contract is being held at a pawn shop owned by the Russians. Edie gives the ticket to the police, who pay the Russians a visit. Raji and Elliott set up LaSalle by making him believe that Carr tricked Chili in giving him the $300,000 to get Linda's contract. LaSalle and the DubMD confront Carr in his office, as do Bulkin and his men. Insulted by Bulkin's racist remarks, LaSalle kills him.
Raji sends Elliott to kill Chili. By assuring Elliott that he can help his acting career, Chili befriends him. After learning that Chili had gotten him an audition for a Nicole Kidman film, Elliott turns on Raji, who had erased the message on his answering machine. For all his smooth talking and flamboyant wardrobe, Raji finds himself in a firework conflagration which roasts him live on camera. Carr is arrested on murder charges when Chili makes sure he is caught with the bat used to kill Joe Loop.
Chili squeezes in a dance scene with Edie (a nod to his "Twist Contest" scene, also with Thurman, in Pulp Fiction), celebrating as Linda Moon gets to make her appearance with Aerosmith in concert. Lasalle agrees to become Linda's new producer. And as Chili drives off, he passes a billboard revealing that Elliott is the co-star of a new movie with Nicole Kidman.
The film's soundtrack was released on March 1, 2005.
Songs featured in the film but not included on the soundtrack are:
On a production budget of $53 million, Be Cool grossed $56,046,979 in North American and $39,169,077 internationally, totaling up to $95,216,056 worldwide.
Be Cool received a 30% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 169 reviews, with an average rating of 4.6/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Be Cool is tepid, square, and lukewarm; as a parody of the music business, it has two left feet." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 37 out of 100, based on 38 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews." Halliwell called it "a palpable miss, a movie so lazy and laid back that it falls over; there are none of those insights ... that made Get Shorty so enjoyable".
In an August 2015 interview with Deadline, director F. Gary Gray discussed the failure of the film, stating: "With Be Cool, I made some assumptions in thinking that movie was going to work. I’d just made a successful PG-13 movie [The Italian Job], and when I walked into Be Cool, it was rated R and then at the last minute in preproduction I was told, 'Well, you have to make this PG-13.' I should have walked off the film. This was a movie about shylocks and gangsta rappers and if you can’t make that world edgy, you probably shouldn’t do it. I walked in thinking I was going to make one movie and then it changed. Maybe it was arrogant of me to think because I had success in this realm of PG-13 I could make that work".