Combustible Celluloid
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With: John Travolta, Renee Russo, Gene Hackman, Danny DeVito, Delroy Lindo, Dennis Farina, James Gandolfini, David Paymer, Bette Midler
Written by: Scott Frank, based on a novel by Elmore Leonard
Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld
MPAA Rating: R for language and some violence
Running Time: 105
Date: 10/20/1995

Get Shorty (1995)

4 Stars (out of 4)

'Shorty' Cuts to the Quick

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Adapted by Scott Frank and directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, GetShorty was considered at the time to be thefirst proper Elmore Leonard film adaptation, the first to get his brand ofhumor and his tone right. It's easily digested and quickly forgotten but, whilewatching, it has a strong and unique flavor. It's not an official masterpiece,but like Casablanca, it's avirtually flawless product of the Hollywood machine.

More than anyone else, the actors, from leads to bit players, benefit from this script, sinking their teeth into it as if it were Shakespeare. Leading the pack is John Travolta, cooler than ever, as Chili Palmer, a Miami hitman sent to Hollywood to retrieve a bundle of stolen money. Enchanted by tinseltown, the film buff Chili instead finds himself making deals with a sleazy producer (Gene Hackman), befriending a sexy scream queen (Renee Russo) and charming an egotistical star (Danny DeVito).

Delroy Lindo gives nobility and weight to a local gangster who would also like to get into the movie business but lacks Chili's finesse. And Dennis Farina lends a fiery performance as a bungling Miami mobster, substituting his "Ms" for "Bs" through a broken nose. Harvey Keitel and Penny Marshall appear in cameos, and all the character actors' efforts combined reach a perfect pitch that results in a snappy symphony.

At the time, the movie felt like a deliberate tribute to Quentin Tarantino, a movie fan who resurrected Travolta's career, and now it feels even more relevant, like the missing link between Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown.

Sonnenfeld, who began as a cinematographer for the Coen brothers, turns in a bright, crisp film with just the right grasp on the humor, suspense and plot mechanics. It pays homage to scrappy "B" movies, Orson Welles' great noir Touch of Evil, and the films of Howard Hawks (Rio Bravo), who no doubt would have been the first one to enjoy Get Shorty.

DVD Details: The new double-disc set has been released both for the film's tenth anniversary and to promote the new sequel, Be Cool. It comes with a feature commentary track by director Sonnenfeld, several talking-heads 'n' clips featurettes, the blessedly deleted "graveyard" scene (featuring Ben Stiller), outtakes, the "party reel," a "sneak peek" at Be Cool, the Bravo "page to screen" special, a photo gallery and the trailer.

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