Thursday, April 2, 2015
Get Shorty (1995)
We'll begin with the film that kicked off the real trend of good Leonard adaptations. Before 1995,there were a few good ones but for the most part, his work had been relegated to one-off TV movies. In 1995, however, he blasted back to prominence with this genuinely funny, entertaining comedy.
Get Shorty stars John Travolta as Chili Palmer, a loan shark who is in the middle of a petty feud with Ray Barboni (Dennis Farina) who he ends up working for. Palmer tracks the owner of a dry cleaners who owes some money to Vegas and while he's there, he's also sent to get some money out of a B-movie producer in Hollywood. Being a movie buff, Chili becomes enamored with the film business and the ensuing comedy is both a sly satire of the business and a perfect adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel.
Travolta is top notch here, right in the middle of his 1994 comeback, cool and funny but also sort of tough which is perfect for the character. Hackman is equally funny as the sort of dumb, utterly full of crap film producer and Rene Russo is fun as Karen, an actress Chili falls for. The rest of the cast is fun too. Dennis Farina is quite funny as Barboni, as is Delroy Lindo as a thug looking to get into the film, business as well and Danny DeVito is great as an utterly ridiculous actor. You can tell he, along with everybody else in the movie (there are so many good character actors in this thing that to name them all would stretch this review to an unreasonable length) is having a blast.
Barry Sonnenfeld does a fine job directing things and as noted, the cast is great but what really sells the film is the script. Scott Frank stays true to the original novel, using the dialogue and letting it have that little flair Leonard always puts into his work. It's just plain fun and one of the best Leonard adaptations out there.