Monday, April 22, 2013

Movie #189: Get Shorty

Get Shorty is a crime/comedy movie based on the novel by Elmore Leonard, and starring John Travolta, Rene Russo, Gene Hackman, Dennis Farina, and Danny DeVito. Oh, shit, and Delroy Lindo and James Gandolfini and John Gries. And Bette Midler. Shit, man.

So, Get Shorty begins with Chili Palmer (Travolta) not really enjoying his life as a loan shark. His higher-up in the organization, Ray Bones (Farina) hates him and rides his ass, and then he learns that a dude he lent money to and was supposed to have died in a plane crash (David Paymer) is alive and well and living in Vegas. In tracking him down, Palmer agrees to lean on a movie producer named Harry Zimm (Hackman), and gets caught up in Zimm's world of buying scripts he doesn't really own and trying build a name for himself.

The movie's plot is really damned tight, especially for as many characters as there are. The dudes who loaned Harry money are after him to collect, and Palmer tries to help out, but Harry is a complete fuck-up. And into the mix there's this script for a movie that major star Martin Weir (DeVito) is interested in. Maybe. When he's paying attention and not completely smitten with his ex, B-movie star Karen Flores (Russo) or himself.

There's some violence, but it's never over the top. Tarantino was the first choice to direct this movie, and it's disquieting to think how much less funny and how much more violent it would have been had that happened. Instead, even with murder, mayhem, drugs and gunplay, it feels pretty light. Travolta effortlessly plays Palmer as a guy who's good at a job he doesn't really like and really loves movies (which is one of the reasons the sequel, Be Cool, doesn't really work for me - he seems to have lost that love. And Russo). There's very much a theme of "real people have cred, Hollywood people are pretentious twats" and only Palmer really manages to navigate both because he finds the places of intersection. Zimm and Weir are too phony, and the criminals (Farina and Lindo) are too desperate and self-assured to realize that their numbers are up. Humility and self-realization are what save folks like Palmer, Flories, Bear (Gandolfini) and even Zimm.

My grade: A
Rewatch value: High

Next up: Ghost