Review: Get Shorty
Cool mobster Chili Palmer (John Travolta), attempts to break into the movie biz (his childhood dream), getting involved with schlock producer Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman), ‘Scream Queen’ Karen Flores (Rene Russo), egotistical actor Martin Weir (Danny DeVito), and others. Out to get him are mobster Bo Catlett (Delroy Lindo, charismatic and intimidating in equal measure), and an hysterically funny Dennis Farina as aggressive small-time mobster ‘Bones’. James Gandolfini, pre-“Sopranos”, plays Bo’s muscle, a former movie stuntman who isn’t really that bad a guy but will end up as Chili’s punching bag for most of the film. David Paymer gets the Elisha Cook Jr. role of the little idiot in a whole mess of trouble he hasn’t got the intestinal fortitude to deal with.
Likeable, amusing 1995 Barry Sonnenfeld (“The Addams Family”) film version of an Elmore Leonard (“Jackie Brown”, “3:10 to Yuma”) novel has many funny moments, interesting characters, and several terrific performances, especially DeVito (as an idiot actor), Hackman (as a guy who isn’t nearly as smart as he thinks he is), and Farina (as a guy who isn’t even close to being as smart as he thinks he is, and he’s even twice as dumb still after that). Those three have almost all of the funniest moments, and I think the late Farina in particular was robbed of an Oscar nomination here as a guy who makes even small talk sound aggressive and threatening. Hackman’s schmuck smile is hilarious, and his spectacularly failed attempt at acting like Chili is even funnier. What really did it for me, though, was the way he pronounces the name David O. Selznick, he makes him sound Irish! Danny DeVito manages to get a smile simply by having his mug on a billboard poster for a movie about Napoleon. However, what really made me laugh seeing this one again was the scene where he orders lunch for everyone, talks about a script he hasn’t even read yet, then leaves before the food has even come out! Hilarious.
Delroy Lindo, meanwhile gets to be the coolest guy in the room despite wearing a butt-fucking ugly, bile-coloured suit. Travolta gets one of his best-ever roles, a typically ‘too cool’ Travolta part that would normally annoy me if not for the fact that he’s just about the smartest dummy in a movie full of complete dumb arses. As for Rene Russo, as usual she brings a whole lot to not much. She’s so good and so underrated. Cute cameos, too, with a very buxom Midler standing out in a kind of Joan Blondell/early Shelley Winters sort of role. Good (and sometimes foul-mouthed) fun, particularly for film buffs, with Hackman’s character like a combo of Sam Arkoff (The El Supremo Schlockmeister of B-company American International), Russ Meyer, and uber-producer Roger Corman.
The film hasn’t aged brilliantly (it’s more often ‘clever’ than funny) and might be a touch overrated by some, however I’d still say it’s easily Barry Sonnenfeld’s best film as director and good fun. With a foul-mouthed screenplay by Scott Frank (“Malice”, “Little Man Tate”), it might leave you referring to everyone as ‘Fuckball’ for weeks afterwards.