This summer, we lost prolific actors James Gandolfini and Dennis Farina. These two are linked because they played memorable roles in one of my favorite films of all time.
Today, let’s revisit the 1995 comedy, “Get Shorty.” It has to be one of the coolest films ever made and also my favorite John Travolta picture, with “Face/Off” following close behind.
In “Get Shorty,” directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and based on a novel by the amazing Elmore Leonard, Travolta is Chili Palmer, a Miami loan shark who is in hot water because he refuses to show new boss Ray Bones (Farina) the proper respect. One of my favorite lines from Bones refers to it being “Chili outside and Chili inside” when he sees Chili inside a diner.
Bones sends Chili on a wild goose chase to collect a debt from a dry cleaner named Leo (David Paymer). But, Leo supposedly blew up in an airline explosion, and his wife is offered an enormous sum of money for her loss.
So, Chili can take from that payout to satisfy Bones for the debt. However, he can’t because Leo actually is alive and using the money while hiding out in Vegas.
This leads Chili first to Vegas and then to Los Angeles, where he winds up with another man who is delinquent on a debt: film producer Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman).
This is where things continue to get interesting. Chili has an idea for a movie based on his recent life. Zimm can help make the picture a reality, but first Chili has to help him get out from under the thumb of Bo (Delroy Lindo), to whom he also owes money. Bo is aided by his muscle, a former Hollywood stuntman called Bear (Gandolfini).
All these crazy characters — and a few more that I haven’t mentioned — play their parts in a wildly funny series of twists.
What I love about “Get Shorty” is that it pays tribute to gangster films and to Hollywood itself as Chili learns what it takes to make a movie and wins the girl in the process. And whether Bo is mispronouncing the name of Yayo, a flunky for a Mexican drug cartel, or Yayo’s boss is delivering my favorite movie threat of all time, saying, “Maybe I have Ramon and Caesar staple your tongue to your chin,” I still laugh out loud every time I watch this film.
It’s priceless, and I’m a fan!