Archive Review: Get Shorty (1995) – 3.5/5 Stars


The mobster flick mixes with show business in “Get Shorty,” the mob comedy from “The Addams Family” director Barry Sonnenfeld. The two (mob movies and Hollywood) have always gotten along well together from “The Godfather” to “Goodfellas,” so “Get Shorty” taking the humorous business angle is only a natural evolution. Starring John Travolta hot off of “Pulp Fiction,” it’s an enjoyable film for those who love movies and those who love the mob.

“Get Shorty” is mostly about the former. Chili Palmer (Travolta) is a loan shark/shylock who flies out to Hollywood to collect a debt and partly to avoid his new boss, Ray Bones, the perfect jerk with a foul mouth played by Dennis Farina. In LA, Palmer meets producer Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman) and becomes fond of the movie business, offering to help Zimm get some lenders who’ve invested in one of his films off his back.

There’s some strong irony between the movie business and mob movies, e.g. Chili pitches the story of why he’s out in LA as a movie idea to Zimm who thinks he’s got something, but its the rock solid performances of Travolta, Hackman, Farina and Delroy Lindo that sell you on “Get Shorty.”

Film-lovers will appreciate many references from “Touch of Evil” to “Three Men and a Baby” as the movie takes plenty of shots at the industry. Those more into the mob angle will enjoy how everyone’s out to get everyone — some for legitimate reasons, others because they want in on the movie business. It displaces the gangster movie from its cozy home in New York, Boston or Miami and drops it into the glitz of Hollywood where it fits well seeing as the industry is not exactly the cleanest.

“Get Shorty” is not overly impressive, maintaining interest through its performances and our wondering just when one of these guys is going to up the stakes and off someone — such are the thrills of a mob movie. Its lack of a definitive objective and therefore constant evolution into a story about something other than what it started as definitely holds it back, but not beyond of the point getting to enjoy it.


3.5/5 Stars

Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld
Written by: Scott Frank (screenplay), Elmore Leonard (novel)
Starring: John Travolta, Gene Hackman, Rene Russo, Dennis Farina, Danny DeVito

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