Probably my favorite author is Elmore Leonard. I love his work. So when a respectful adaptation of his fantastic “Get Shorty” was made, it was time for a celebration. I had fun with the writing style on this one.
“Get Shorty” one of this year’s best
By DONALD PORTER
There’s this guy, name’s Chili Palmer. Works as a shylock for a Miami outfit -- you know, mob.
So, he’s a debt collector, right? Gets sent to L.A., supposed to find a movie producer owes this Vegas casino a wad of green. But when Chili gets to L.A., he falls in with the producer, Harry Zimm. They decide to make a movie together. The movie’s about Chili’s trip to L.A., only Harry doesn’t know about that just yet.
Chili's makin’ it up as he goes.
This is the movie, called “Get Shorty.” It’s based on the Elmore Leonard novel. Leonard’s books have been made into movies before. Or should I say ruined by the movies before? Watch Burt Reynolds’ “Stick,” and you’ll know what I mean.
“Get Shorty” was made by guys who liked the book. Respected the book. Its tough-guy dialogue, its humor, its grit. In Leonard’s books, the characters talk like this. In short sentences. No wasted words.
The book is a great one, and so is the movie. One of the year’s best.
John Travolta plays Chili. He’s just right, having played the smacked-up hit man in last year’s “Pulp Fiction.” His Chili is cool. A sharp dresser and a guy who has the goods. Chili’s tired of the rackets, looking to get out. And, hey, maybe the movie business is his next step.
Chili knows the movies. Even the grade-Z schlock Harry’s been making all his life; his movies have the words “slime creatures” in the titles. Stuff like that. Chili knows all of ’em.
He also knows Karen Flores, one of Harry’s favorite stars. She screams real good in those movies – you know, when the monsters jump out. Now Chili’s met her, in person, and she’s a looker. Definitely Chili’s type. And she used to be married to this pompous actor Martin Weir. Guy won an Oscar. Harry says maybe they can get Martin to play the lead in Chili’s movie.
Wow. And even if Martin says no, Chili explains he’ll just press a gun between Martin’s eyes until he signs the contract. Simple.
But first Chili has to collect those debts. It’s the only way he can leave the rackets. There’s the matter of the money Harry owes the Vegas guys. And Chili’s Miami boss, Ray “Bones” Barboni, is out for blood. There’s been this thing, real personal like, between Chili and Ray Bones ever since Chili busted Ray Bones’ nose and shot him in the head.
But that’s not all. Chili also has to deal with this drug trafficker, Bo Catlett, and his bodyguard, guy called Bear, used to be a stuntman. Always acting tough, these two, so Chili gets violent with ’em. It’s a bother, you know, while you’re trying to put a film deal together.
“Get Shorty” is fantastic. A high-water mark for everybody involved. Barry Sonnenfeld directed it; he made those “Addams Family” movies. Scott Frank, the screenwriter, wrote scripts for “Dead Again” and “Little Man Tate.” He deserves lots of credit.
You also got big stars taking small roles, here. Gene Hackman plays Harry. Danny DeVito plays Martin. Incredible, both of ’em. So are Delroy Lindo, plays Bo, and this top-notch character actor, James Gandolfini, plays Bear.
You gotta, admit, though, Travolta and Rene Russo, that “Lethal Weapon 3” actress who plays Karen, are the ones who come off best. Russo, as Karen, looks great and is twice as smart as any of the guys. Well, except for Chili. Maybe.
This is the movie to see, “Get Shorty.” Do it.