This adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s novel explores the murky world of Hollywood’s links to organised crime. Made in the wake of Pulp Fiction (1994), Get Shorty was the first attempt by a major studio to cash in on Quentin Tarantino’s style.
John Travolta plays Florida loan shark (and film buff) Chili Palmer, who arrives in Tinseltown to collect a bad gambling debt from sleazeball movie producer and purveyor of schlocky monster movies, Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman). Chili decides to stay in Hollywood, importing his strong-arm methods into movie production.
Chili originally came out west on the trail of a Miami dry cleaner named Leo Devoe (David Paymer), who collected a $300,000 insurance payout when a plane crashed and everyone thought he was onboard. Devoe owes the money to Mafia boss ‘Bones’ Barboni (Dennis Farina).
Chili ends up pitching this story to Harry Zimm because he thinks it would make a good movie.
Zimm is sleeping with Karen Flores (Rene Russo), a ‘scream queen’ actress who used to be married to Martin Weir (Danny DeVito) – a major, if short, movie star. Everybody schemes to get “shorty” into their picture, and the movie’s best scene is where Chili gives Weir acting lessons in how to look filled with menace.
Other characters include Bo Catlett (Delroy Lindo), who owns a limousine service and is owed big money by Zimm; Bear (James Gandolfini), a stunt man who thinks he is very tough but has never met anyone like Chili Palmer before; and Doris (Bette Midler), whose success is based on being as close to a 1930s sex siren as anyone is likely to get in this lifetime. Penny Marshall and Harvey Keitel both have game cameos.
The plot gets complex, with $300,000 stashed in an airport locker that everybody wants to get at – but the FBI has it staked out.
Ray “Bones” Barboni