Get Shorty (film)

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Get Shorty
Get shorty.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBarry Sonnenfeld
Produced byDanny DeVito
Michael Shamberg
Stacey Sher
Screenplay byScott Frank
Based onGet Shorty
by Elmore Leonard
Music byJohn Lurie
CinematographyDonald Peterman[1]
Edited byJim Miller
Jersey Films
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • October 20, 1995 (1995-10-20)
Running time
105 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$30 million[2]
Box office$115.1 million[3]

Get Shorty is a 1995 American gangster comedy-thriller film directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and written by Scott Frank. It is based on Elmore Leonard's novel of the same name and stars John Travolta, Gene Hackman, Rene Russo, and Danny DeVito. Get Shorty follows Chili Palmer (Travolta), a Miami mobster and loan shark who inadvertently gets involved in feature film production, after traveling to Los Angeles to collect a casino debt from "B" movie director Harry Zimm (Hackman).

Get Shorty was followed by a sequel, Be Cool, in 2005, and in 2017 inspired a television series of the same name.


Chili Palmer, a Miami mobster and loan shark, finds himself suddenly working for his arch enemy, Ray "Bones" Barboni, after the heart attack death of Palmer's longtime boss, Momo. Previously, Chili has slugged "Bones" because he had taken Chili's jacket without his permission from a restaurant coat room. Chili and Bones constantly clash, and as his new boss, Bones orders Chili to collect a debt from a Miami drycleaner named Leo Devoe who was reported to have been killed in a plane crash, but Chili learns Devoe has successfully faked his own death after deboarding from the plane before it crashed after take off. With Leo's hat and clothing still on the crashed aircraft, the burned clothing allowed his wife Faye DeVoe to claim $300,000 in a quick insurance airline settlement. Leo has taken all of the settlement money from Faye, and has traveled to Las Vegas. While tracking Leo down there, Chili picks up a second job to collect a 300K gambling debt from a B movie film director named Harry Zimm. In Los Angeles, Chili quickly locates Harry, who is sleeping over at actress Karen Flores' Hollywood home. Chili promptly wakes up and lectures Harry, and scares him into honoring his casino debt, and he also warns him to pay the Mesa Casino the 300k he owes them within 30 days. Seemingly a bit drunk, Harry loudly agrees. Knowing that Harry is a movie director, and having seen his movies, Chili pitches a thinly veiled story of his own recent mob life experiences, including the airline insurance death scam by Leo, as a possible film idea.

The next day, knowing Chili is a mobster, Zimm then opens up to him, and he tells him he received a 300K movie investment loan from a limo business owner and drug dealer named Bo Catlett. Zimm reluctantly confesses he has lost all of that film investment money in Las Vegas, putting him at risk from Bo, who in turn owes big money to his Mexican drug supplier, Mr. Escobar. Instead of paying Escobar's money directly to his money carrier, Yayo Portillo, Bo puts the money bag in a locker at LAX. Understandably, Portillo is nervous about getting the money, as the airport locker area is under surveillance by the DEA. That night, after getting upset at Portillo on the balcony of his home on Wonderland, Bo rashly murders Portillo with a handgun. The next day, at Harry's office, Chili stands up to Bo and his partner Ronnie Wingate, and tells them to leave Harry alone. Harry is very protective of a good script titled Mr. Lovejoy, written by Murray Saffron, the late husband of his friend, Doris Saffron. As Chili is negotiating at Harry's office with Bo and Ronnie, Harry suddenly panics as Chili argues with them, and he suddenly brings up the Mr. Lovejoy script. Chili is disgusted that Harry has told them about Mr. Lovejoy, and later reminds Harry he earlier had warned him not to tell Bo and Ronnie anything about the Lovejoy script. The next day, at a high end restaurant, instead of the film loan repayment, Bo and his bodyguard Bear offer Harry another large sum of money, with the cash still stored in the airport locker, to finance Mr. Lovejoy. They both suggest that Harry have Chili Palmer retrieve the locker money. Chili and Karen Flores then arrive to also meet Harry at the same restaurant. On the restaurant's steps, Chili confronts Bo and Bear, who is Bo's bodyguard. Chili wants them both to leave, but after Bear steps in his way, he throws Bear down the restaurant steps. After the lunch meeting with Harry and Karen, Chili agrees to try a ruse, and attempt to get the money that is in the airport locker. Recognizing that DEA agents are watching the locker, Chili opens an adjacent locker, and is quickly picked up and questioned by DEA agents, who ultimately let him go.

Later that day, Chili locates Leo at a high end L.A. hotel and collects the airline settlement money. Chili also borrows another 10k from Leo, and tells him he will pay Leo the vig and principal on the 10k loan. Chili then goes on visit with Karen Flores, who is the ex-wife of famed actor Martin Weir; he convinces Martin he has some good movie ideas. Meanwhile, a drunken Harry foolishly calls Bones in Miami, telling him Chili recovered the insurance money from Leo. Bones travels to L.A., and after a brief meeting in Harry's office, he brutally assaults Harry for not revealing the location of the money. They are interrupted by Ronnie; Bones shoots him and puts the gun in Harry's hand to incriminate Harry. In the hospital, Harry's jaw is broken, but he manages to tell Chili and Karen that Bones has shot and killed Ronnie. At his limousine shop, Bo is startled to see Mr. Escobar and his two hulking bodyguards have arrived, looking for his nephew Yayo and Escobar's drug payment money.

Desperate to pay Mr. Escobar, Bo surprises and confronts Chili and Karen at Karen's home with a gun, and demands the settlement money that Leo has scammed from the airline. Chili agrees to bring Bo the money, and Bo kidnaps Karen and takes her to his home as a hostage. At Bo's home, Chili gives the settlement money to him. Bo then reneges on their deal, and says he is going to shoot Chili. Unbeknownst to Bo, Chili has made a secret deal with Bear to double-cross Bo. In an ensuing struggle on Bo's balcony, Bo is pushed, and falls over a previously loosened balcony rail to his death. An hour later, after sneaking into Chili's hotel room, Ray Bones confronts Chili, and holding a gun to his head, Chili tell Bones about the airport locker, and the cash; soon after, armed with the locker key, Bones arrives at the airport, opens the locker, and DEA agents quickly arrest him.

A few months later, Chili's film plot, "Get Shorty," begins production at MGM, being directed by Penny Marshall, starring Harvey Keitel as Ray "Bones" Barboni, and Martin Weir.


A Miami mobster, loan shark, and film buff who gets involved in the film industry.
A debt-ridden B movie film director and producer.
A B movie scream queen actress dissatisfied with her career. Karen is the ex-wife of famed actor Martin Weir.
A successful and two-time Academy Award nominee actor, who Chili and Karen pursue to star in his film.

The film also features Dennis Farina as Ray "Bones" Barboni, Chili's new mob boss, Delroy Lindo as Bo Catlett, a Los Angeles limo company owner and drug dealer, in addition to James Gandolfini and Jon Gries as Bear and Ronnie Wingate, two members of Bo's crew. David Paymer and Linda Hart appear as Leo and Faye Devoe, a couple who commit insurance fraud. Miguel Sandoval appears as Mr. Escobar, a Mexican mobster and high level drug dealer, with Jacob Vargas as his nephew Yayo Portillo. Actress and singer Bette Midler is featured as Doris Saffron, Murray Saffron's widow and Harry's new girlfriend. Martin Ferrero and Renee Props also guest star as Tommy Carlo, the key member of Chili's Miami crew, and Nicki, Martin's live in musician girlfriend. Nicki is the woman who broke up Karen's marriage to Martin Weir.

Get Shorty also features an appearance from the real Ernest "Chili" Palmer, a Miami loan shark and mob connected man who inspired the original character.[4]


The movie features an acid- and soul-jazz themed soundtrack with songs by Us3, Morphine, Booker T. & the M.G.'s, Greyboy and Medeski Martin & Wood alongside original compositions by John Lurie.[5] The soundtrack was nominated for a Grammy Award (1997 - Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or for Television).[6]


On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 88% based on 56 reviews, with an average rating of 7.74/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "With a perfect cast and a sly twist on the usual Hollywood gangster dynamic, Get Shorty delivers a sharp satire that doubles as an entertaining comedy-thriller in its own right."[7] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 82 out of 100, based on 22 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[8] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade "B+" on scale of A+ to F.[9] The film was entered into the 46th Berlin International Film Festival.[10]

The film opened at #1 upon its release (10/20-22) with $12.7 million.[11] Get Shorty remained #1 for three consecutive weeks before being overtaken by Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls.[12]


For his role as Chili Palmer, John Travolta received the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. The film also received nominations for the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.


  1. ^ "Perry Moore, 'Narnia' series executive producer, dies at 39; Don Peterman, Oscar-nominated cinematographer, dies at 79; Nancy Carr, network TV publicist, dies at 50". Los Angeles Times. 2011-02-22. Archived from the original on 2013-10-29. Retrieved 2011-02-23.
  2. ^ "Why 'Get Shorty' Is One of the Best Crime Comedies Ever". Collider. October 21, 2020. Retrieved February 5, 2021.
  3. ^ "Get Shorty". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on 15 November 2020. Retrieved 5 November 2011.
  4. ^ Anne E. Kornblut (November 5, 1995). "The Real Chili Palmer". New York Daily News. Retrieved 5 November 2011.
  5. ^ Okamoto, David (October 30, 1995). "'Get Shorty' Scores A Hit With Funky Soundtrack". Dallas Morning News. Retrieved June 14, 2017 – via Chicago Tribune.
  6. ^ "Artist: John Lurie". Grammy Award. Archived from the original on November 15, 2020. Retrieved June 14, 2017.
  7. ^ Get Shorty at Rotten Tomatoes
  8. ^ Get Shorty at Metacritic
  9. ^ "GET SHORTY (1995) B+". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on 2018-12-20.
  10. ^ "Berlinale: 1996 Programme". Archived from the original on 2012-01-20. Retrieved 2012-01-01.
  11. ^ Robert W. Welkos (24 October 1995). "Weekend Box Office : 'Shorty' Stands Tall in Ticket Sales". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 4 November 2012. Retrieved 5 November 2011.
  12. ^ "Weekend Box Office November 10–12, 1995". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on 15 November 2020. Retrieved 5 November 2011.

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