Best Movies of All Time + Rene Russo



Get Shorty is a 1995 comedy crime thriller directed by Barry Sonnenfeld. It centers around the making of a movie in Hollywood. Chili Palmer (John Travolta), a Miami-based loan shark, is sent by his boss, Ray "Bones" Baroni (Dennis Farina) to find a dry cleaner owner who owes him $300,000. Chili's search takes him to Los Angeles, where he decides to spend a little time dabbling in his real passion: filmmaking. After breaking into the home of Hollywood starlet Karen Flores (Rene Russo), Chili meets low-budget film kingpin Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman) and pitches a movie based on his recent experiences. The two decide to go into business together, which leads Chili towards learning the ins and outs of Hollywood finances and bribery. He meets Harry's other major financier, a local drug runner named Bo (Delroy Lindo), who is also trying to break into the Hollywood producing scene. He and Chili begin to court Harry with a number of offers in an attempt to sway him towards their bill for finances. However, Chili also has to deal with the job he was assigned, and when Ray Bones makes his way to L.A., Chili finds himself in a bit of a pickle.

I've known about this flick for quite a while but just never took the time to sit down and watch it. I think it really came into my consciousness when its sequel, 2005's Be Cool, was released, but I vaguely remember hearing about it back when it first came out. Granted, I was only seven, but that's a little irrelevant. However, it was mentioned in Steven Jay Schneider's 101 Gangster Films You Must See Before You Die, so I figured now was as good a time as any to give it a viewing.

The first thing I think you'll notice is just how fresh the film's dialogue is. Now, it's not that the dialogue is anything stunning, but it fits the constructs of the movie so well that it automatically makes everything believable. You can say what you want about John Travolta - especially after the tumultuous couple of years he's had recently - but as soon as Chili Palmer starts talking, you'll be absolutely hooked. Now, if you've seen my explanation of my grading system, you'll know that a big chunk of a film's final score comes down to acting as well as the movie's screenplay. I didn't go into detail about what it takes to have a good screenplay (but I really should have), but I'll give a basic rundown here. For me, a great screenplay comes down to two pieces: the film's story and the film's dialogue. You can have a brilliantly-crafted story, but if your characters' dialogue isn't believable, your final score is going to suffer. The same goes for the opposite. However, Get Shorty hits on both pistons, grabbing hold and never once letting go. We have a great storyline that comes full circle (in more ways than one), and the dialogue is so crisp and refreshing that I couldn't help but believe that the actors had transformed into the characters themselves.

That being said, a brilliant screenplay is nothing without execution. Here's an analogy: in football, a coach can call a brilliant play, but if the star player falls down, it's going to look like a bonehead call. The same goes for movies. A screenwriter can craft something absolutely beautiful or original, but if the actors can't bring their game up to that level, it's going to come out a little bit stale. Fortunately for Sonnenfeld, Get Shorty was blessed with an all-star cast that rises to the occasion. I've already mentioned Travolta who was absolutely fantastic. In fact, he nabbed a Golden Globe win for this role back in the day. However, the great acting doesn't end with him. Each actor plays his or her part to near-perfection. Special mention should be given to the always-fantastic Hackman because he doesn't disappoint here either. It should also be noted that Danny DeVito also gives a strong supporting performance, and James Gandolfini is good for a laugh here and there. Even Bette Midler joins the mix for a couple of scenes.

Although the movie does run a little bit too long (there were definitely some scenes that could've been edited a little bit), Get Shorty is still a fascinating watch and a heck of a good time. Try to pay close attention to the dialogue. It's so strong, and if you're able to catch it all, I'm sure you won't be disappointed.

Movie Review Summary:Grade: A-
1.5 Thumbs Up

1995, Barry Sonnenfeld, Bette Midler, comedy, Danny DeVito, Delroy Lindo, Dennis Farina, Gene Hackman, Get Shorty, James Gandolfini, John Travolta, movie review, and more:

Relevant to: GET SHORTY + Rene Russo