Get Shorty (film)

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Get Shorty
Get shorty.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld
Produced by Danny DeVito
Michael Shamberg
Stacey Sher
Screenplay by Scott Frank
Based on Get Shorty 
by Elmore Leonard
Starring John Travolta
Gene Hackman
Rene Russo
Danny DeVito
Music by John Lurie
Cinematography Donald Peterman[1]
Edited by Jim Miller
Jersey Films
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • October 20, 1995 (1995-10-20)
Running time
105 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $30,250,000[2]
Box office $115,101,622[3]

Get Shorty is a 1995 crime thriller comedy film based on Elmore Leonard's novel of the same name. Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and starring John Travolta, Gene Hackman, Rene Russo, and Danny DeVito, the plot remained true to the book except for a few minor details.

The sequel Be Cool began production in 2003 and was released in 2005. It was based on the novel of the same name published in 1999.

Two of the Get Shorty cast members, Dennis Farina and James Gandolfini, along with author Elmore Leonard all died within months of each other in 2013.


Chili Palmer, a loan shark based in Miami, clashes with another mobster, Ray "Bones" Barboni over a leather jacket borrowed from Palmer at a restaurant without permission by Mr. Barboni. They have two confrontations, the first of which leaves Barboni with a broken nose. Barboni then wants his mob boss Jimmy Kap to go after Palmer, but he refuses, as Palmer has done nothing wrong. Barboni took the jacket without permission, and Chili's car keys were in the jacket. Jimmy also tells Bones that Chili works for a man named Momo and Kap has no power over him. But soon after Palmer's boss, Momo, dies of a heart attack, Chili finds himself working for Barboni, whose first order is for Palmer to collect a loan shark debt owed by dry cleaner Leo Devoe. Devoe was believed to have been killed in a commercial airliner crash, but in truth had actually gotten off the plane, and failed to re-board because he was getting drunk in the airport bar. After the plane crash, Devoe's wife identified his personal effects, and the airline quickly offers her an insurance check for $300,000. Faye carelessly gives Leo the insurance money, and he heads out of Miami. When Chili visits Leo's "widow" Faye, she reveals to Palmer that Leo is still alive, has left Miami, and is partying and winning money in Las Vegas, Nevada.

While in Las Vegas, looking for Leo, Palmer also picks up a debt collection job from a casino manager to collect a marker debt from a B-movie producer/director named Harry Zimm. Palmer goes to Los Angeles and locates Zimm sleeping at the home of actress Karen Flores. After breaking into her house, Chili turns on the television, and waits for Zimm to come downstairs. At first scared of Chili, soon Zimm agrees to pay the casino the money he owes in 90 days. Film fan Palmer then pitches a movie idea: a thinly veiled story of his own life, being a shylock, including the airline insurance scam by Leo.

Zimm is very interested, but he has pressing financial problems: He owes $200,000 to limo company owner/drug dealer Bo Catlett, who also wants to be "high up" in the movie business. Chili Palmer says he will help Zimm take care of the money problem with Bo, and will stall Bo on the making of a Zimm movie called "Freaks". Arriving at Harry's movie office, Catlett is with his drug dealing sidekick Ronnie. They are visiting Zimm's office for a progress report about the Zimm film they are financing, titled "Freaks". Waiting for them with Harry is Palmer. Harry Zimm tells Catlett that Zimm has a different project, other than "Freaks", one he cannot talk about, to finish up first. Chili takes over the meeting, explaining that Bo and Ronnie must wait for Harry's other project to be finished first. Bo and Ronnie get angry, and Harry suddenly panics. Being afraid of Bo and Ronnie, to Chili's disgust Harry reveals the new Zimm movie project is a book by Murray Saffron, called "Mr. Lovejoy". Catlett and his partner Ronnie then proceed to threaten Zimm, saying they want their money back, or to put their money into "Mr. Lovejoy" instead of "Freaks".

Afterward, Bo Catlett meets Mexican drug runner Yayo Portillo at the airport for a big cocaine transfer deal, and tells Yayo that he has to pick up the cocaine money from a locker at the airport. Yayo is upset at this deal change. Portillo is aware that the locker is under surveillance by the DEA, and Yayo refuses to get the money. Bo's bodyguard Bear, with his daughter, picks up his cocaine suitcase at the luggage claim. Bo with his partner Ronnie and Bear leave with the cocaine. Two days later Yayo confronts Bo at his house in the Hollywood hills and demands his money - and in frustration Bo shoots him dead.

Later that day Palmer returns to Karen's house, where he asks Karen on a date. Karen is the ex-wife of actor Martin Weir, which gives Palmer the idea that Weir should star in his movie. Karen cannot go out, but latter shows up at the end of the movie Chili has suggested they go see - "Touch of Evil", with Orson Welles. The next day Chili and Karen go to Martin Weir's home to pitch the script idea, with Chili giving the actor tips on how to act exactly like a loan shark. Weir is intrigued with Chili and Karen's script idea.

Zimm has a lunch meeting with Chili and Karen, but Catlett and Bear suddenly show up and offer to invest the $500,000 that is still in a locker at the airport, which is the money owed to cocaine dealers that didn't get picked up by Yayo. Zimm agrees to sideline Chili's project just as Chili and Karen arrive for their lunch with Harry at the restaurant. Bear confronts Chili, who throws Bear down the stairs and then threatens Catlett. Zimm tells Chili and Karen about the money, and asks Chili to pick it up but Chili recognizes that it is a setup by Catlett and that there is a high probability that the money is being watched. Chili goes to the airport and creates a ruse that reveals that the DEA is looking for someone that will be trying to get the locker money, and Chili leaves without being connected with the cash.

After an evening office tryst with Doris, Murray Saffron's widow, a drunken Zimm makes a call to Ray Barboni in Miami, telling him Chili has recovered the money from Leo Devoe and insults Barboni by speaking to him rudely on the phone. Barboni promptly flies to Los Angeles, confronts Zimm in his office, and beats him mercilessly when Zimm does not reveal the location of Chili and the money. Drug dealer Ronnie walks in, confronts Barboni, and Ray suddenly shoots him, then puts the gun in Zimm's hand.

Doris, Zimm's girlfriend, whose late husband wrote "Mr. Lovejoy", calls Karen and tells her that Zimm is in the hospital. When he is eventually released, Zimm must wear a neck brace and remains in agonizing pain, even as he endures Weir's arrogant behavior in a brief lunch meeting with Chili and Karen about their movie project.

Desperate for money after double crossing Mexican cartel lord Escobar, Catlett kidnaps Karen and demands the money that Chili has gotten back from Devoe. But after Chili gives him the money, Catlett reneges on their deal. Chili cuts a deal with Bear to double-cross Catlett. On a balcony at Catlett's home, where Karen is being held, Bear pretends to give Chili a beating, but it's a set-up. In the struggle, Catlett is pushed over a balcony rail that was previously loosened by Bear and falls to his death.

At his hotel, Ray Barboni confronts Palmer, demanding the money. Barboni finds the airport locker key, questions Chili, and assumes the money is hidden in the locker. At the prospect of acquiring DeVoe's insurance money without further incident, he expresses to Palmer a desire to bury the hatchet and forget all past transgressions. Barboni heads to the airport and approaches the locker as the DEA agents alert one another and appear ready to move. Suddenly, we hear actor Martin Weir confront Barboni from off-camera. Barboni turns around, and he is now being played by actor Harvey Keitel. Barboni fires at Weir, who attempts to fire back, but the movie gun malfunctions and ejects the magazine. The director, Penny Marshall, yells "cut", and we recognize that the scene is now a MGM Hollywood set. As the movie set wraps for the day, we see Zimm is executive producer (accompanied by widow Doris Saffron nagging him), Chili and Karen as co-producers, and Bear as a special effects technical consultant.




At the beginning of the film, Ray Bones has two thugs with him; one of them is played by actor Ernest "Chili" Palmer. Palmer was author Elmore Leonard's model for the character in the book. According to a newspaper article, he claims not to have been involved with gangsters or loan sharking. When the filmmakers found out from Leonard that there was a real "Chili" Palmer, they gave him a bit part in the film.[4]


Get Shorty received critical acclaim and currently holds an 86% "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[5] The film was entered into the 46th Berlin International Film Festival.[6]

The film opened at #1 upon its release (10/20-22) with $12,700,007.[7] Get Shorty remained #1 for three consecutive weeks before being overtaken by Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls.[8]

Awards and nominations[edit]

For his role as Chili Palmer, John Travolta received the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. The film also a received a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy.

American Film Institute lists


  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. Retrieved 2011-02-23. 
  2. ^ "Box Office/Business for Get Shorty". IMDB. Retrieved 5 November 2011. 
  3. ^ "Get Shorty". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 5 November 2011. 
  4. ^ Anne E. Kornblut (November 5, 1995). "The Real Chili Palmer". New York Daily News. Retrieved 5 November 2011. 
  5. ^ Get Shorty at Rotten Tomatoes
  6. ^ "Berlinale: 1996 Programme". Retrieved 2012-01-01. 
  7. ^ Robert W. Welkos (24 October 1995). "Weekend Box Office : 'Shorty' Stands Tall in Ticket Sales". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 5 November 2011. 
  8. ^ "Weekend Box Office November 10–12, 1995". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 5 November 2011. 
  9. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs Nominees
  10. ^ AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot

External links[edit]