'Get Shorty': THR's 1995 Review

Get Shorty - H - 1995
A perfect cast and great script, based on a hilariously witty best-seller, are key elements.

On Oct. 20, 1995, MGM unveiled Barry Sonnenfeld's R-rated crime comedy Get Shorty in theaters, where it would go on to gross $115 million globally. The Hollywood Reporter's original review is below.

How cool can a mere movie be? A perfect cast and great script, based on a hilariously witty best seller, are key elements. When you add a talented director and let the magic of Hollywood take over, the result is Get Shorty.

Distributor MGM and production company Jersey Films have a major winner in Get Shorty, director Barry Sonnenfeld's outstanding adaptation of Elmore Leonard's 1990, Raymond Chandler-meets-Nathaniel West novel. With hot stars and strong marketing, the film will get a boost from enthusiastic reviews, potent word-of-mouth and possible awards action.

In a smashing follow-up to his Oscar-nominated comeback in Pulp Fiction, John Travolta plays the super-confident Chili Palmer, a mob-affiliated Shylock with an itch to get into the film business. He's well-dressed; he knows human nature; he's got a gift for storytelling; and he knows how to get his hands on significant amounts of cash.

When his Hollywood adventures and the circumstances that brought him to showbiz start shaping up into hit movie material, Chili sees his chance to become a player. He's a natural for handling desperate producers, high-flying stars, ambitious actresses and, most importantly, the sometimes deadly competition. And, reluctantly, he's not afraid to use a bullet or fist to get the job done.

Screenwriter Scott Frank (Dead Again) has made some minor adjustments to the story line but has kept most of Leonard's snappy dialogue, with a quartet of actors backing up Travolta as brilliant characters that propel the plot in surprising, not altogether sarcastic directions.

Playing against type, Gene Hackman as schlocky movie producer Harry Zimm is hilarious. Producer Danny DeVito is in top form as boxoffice star Martin Weir, whose charming facade is the ultimate form of acting. Chilli's ultimate rival in creative film financing, Bo Catlett, is played with deadpan menace and ambition by Delroy Lindo.

As the female lead, a wised-up B-movie actress with great looks and a legendary scream, Rene Russo is wonderfully sly in her expressions and mannerisms.

This being a black comedy about the picture business, there are a number of choice cameos and an ongoing commentary about power and creativity in Hollywood that reaches a cynical, but entertaining, conclusion.

Production credits are aces, including Don Peterman's skillful lensing, Betsy Heimann's ambitious costuming, Peter Larkin's production design and John Lurie's jazzy score. — David Hunter, originally published on Oct. 6, 1995