Get Shorty (1995) / Comedy-Thriller

MPAA Rated: R for language and violence
Running Time: 105 min.

Cast: John Travolta, Gene Hackman, Rene Russo, Delroy Lindo, Danny DeVito, Dennis Farina, James Gandolfini, Bette Midler, David Paymer, Jon Gries, Renee Props, Martin Ferrero, Miguel Sandoval, Jacob Vargas, Alex Rocco, Harvey Keitel (cameo), Penny Marshall (cameo)
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Screenplay: Scott Frank (based on the book by Elmore Leonard)
Review published January 10, 2005

Light, amusing, and full of witty insights, just like an adaptation of Elmore Leonard should be.  Get Shorty is one of the most well-made pure entertainment films of the 90s, benefiting greatly from a likeable cast, spot-on direction by Barry Sonnenfeld (Men in Black, Wild Wild West), a nicely adapted screenplay from Scott Frank (Malice, Out of Sight), and excellent use of music throughout.  This film has it all -- thrills, chills, romance, laughs, and fantastic sense of fun.

John Travolta (Phenomenon, Face/Off) stars as hired muscle Chili Palmer, who travels to Las Vegas and Los Angeles from Miami to collect $300,000 owed to his boss from a man presumed dead.  While there, he also performs a side job involving the head of a b-movie studio, Harry Zimm (Hackman, Crimson Tide), but once in Hollywood, film buff Chili becomes enamored of the Hollywood action, which leads to him helping Zimm see his dream project, Mr. Lovejoy, come to life.  However, Zimm has his hands full with some seedy investors, gangsters who want a piece of the movie's profits.  As Chili tries to help Zimm with the local baddies, he also works with Harry's girlfriend and frequent starlet, Karen Flores (Russo, Lethal Weapon 3), in trying to secure the hottest actor in Hollywood to the project, Martin Weir (DeVito, Hoffa).

John Travolta would continue his comeback to stardom, following his smash appearance in Pulp Fiction, with a wholly different hitman role (reportedly Quentin Tarantino convinced Travolta to take the role).  After many others had turned down the role themselves, Travolta takes it and makes it his, with a natural chemistry with the other actors that leads you to wonder who else could have done it better.  The supporting cast is equally perfect in their respective roles, right down to the bit players, with especially especially memorable performances by Lindo (Clockers, Mr. Jones) and Farina (Another Stakeout, Midnight Run) as the heavies. 

Excellent construction and a nearly effortless maintenance of its darkly comic (but upbeat) tone, makes this one highly recommended for those who enjoy hip thrillers featuring colorful characters and comic situations.  Many Elmore Leonard adaptations have tried and failed to capture the author's appeal, but with Get Shorty, Hollywood finally nails it.  Great fun!

-- Followed in 2005 with a sequel, Be Cool.

 Qwipster's rating:

2005 Vince Leo