DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
GET SHORTY (director: Barry Sonnenfeld; screenwriters: Scott Frank/from the novel by Elmore Leonard; cinematographer: Don Peterman; editor: Jim Miller; music: John Lurie; cast: John Travolta (Chili Palmer), Gene Hackman (Harry Zimm), Rene Russo (Karen Flores), Danny De Vito (Martin Weir), Dennis Farina (Ray 'Bones' Barboni), Delroy Lindo (Bo Catlett), Beth Midler (Doris), James Gandolfini (Bear), David Paymer (Leo Devoe), Jon Gries (Ronnie), Renee Props (Nicki), Linda Hart (Fay Devoe), Miguel Sandoval (Mr. Escobar), Jacob Vargas (Yayo Portillo); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Danny DeVito/Michael Shamberg/Stacey Sher; MGM/UA Home Entertainment; 1995)

 
"A pleasing satire on gangsters, hustlers and Hollywood."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

Barry Sonnenfeld ("Men in Black"/"Wild Wild West"/"Big Trouble") directs this most entertaining irresistible offbeat lightweight Hollywood comedy/crime drama, that rises to the top as a pleasing satire on gangsters, hustlers and Hollywood. The only weakness is despite Sonnenfeld's delicious direction he's unable to get more heft and shadings into the story, but that is covered-up by a great lively ensemble cast (comeback actor John Travolta strikes again after Pulp Fiction). It's slyly written by Scott Frank, and is based on the bestseller novel by Elmore Leonard.

Lovable, tough-guy, film buff, Miami-based mobster, Chili Palmer (John Travolta), finds himself in LA hunting down a dry cleaner (David Paymer) who welshed on a Las Vegas casino $150,000 marker and faked his own death for the insurance money. Chili, after changing mob bosses when his Brooklyn boss dies naturally of a heart attack, now works for the same boss as his Miami mobster rival Ray Bones (Dennis Farina). As a favor to the Las Vegas Mob, Chili while in LA also tracks down schlocky second-rate monster film producer Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman), who also owes the casino. The two form an unholy alliance, where Chili (who will do anything to be part of Hollywood) will back Zimm's latest project (which Zimm likens to "Driving Miss Daisy") and get Zimm's LA mobster creditors--the ruthless drug kingpin Bo Catlett (Delroy Lindo) and his two flunkies Ronnie (Jon Gries ) and former stuntman Bear (James Gandolfini)--off his back. These mobsters loaned the unscrupulous Zimm the money he lost at the casino. The plan is to Get Shorty, ego-maniacal diminutive star Martin Weir (Danny Devito), to play the loan shark. If the popular Weir comes on board, it's a sure-thing investors will also come on board.

Chili, when asked his role in all this as a Hollywood outsider, spells out his role quite clearly to the Hollywood people: "I'm the one telling you how it is." That naturally leads to a lot of blood spilled, as Bo also wants to back the film and Ray Bones comes to LA to collect the money the dry cleaner owes him. In the end we get a glimpse at how sleazy and vain Hollywood types go to bed with the threatening mobsters to get deals done in Hollywood.

Rene Russo, former 'scream queen' in Zimm's B pictures and the ex-wife of Weir and Zimm's current girlfriend, beds down with Chili and helps broker a deal to get the star on board. Dennis Farina has a legendary role as the hot-headed mobster who has this ongoing battle with his mobster colleague Chili, where they're not above stealing the other's coat in a restaurant or setting the other up for a narc bust. Beth Midler has a small role as the sex-starved widow of the film's writer, who has a thing for Zimm and quite a few others. She's also determined to get Zimm to pay handsomely for her dead writer hubby's only good screenplay.

There's snappy dialogue, great action pieces, an engrossing plot of double-crosses, hilarious comedy of manners routines, and many colorful characters with larger than life personalities. It's a pic where everyone wants a piece of the action and everyone is so full of bullshit that they don't care how they get their piece and whose toes they have to step on. 

REVIEWED ON 3/19/2011       GRADE: A

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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