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Get Shorty
Starring Danny DeVito, John Travolta,
Rene Russo, Gene Hackman, and Delroy Lindo
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld

In the first five minutes of Get Shorty, a man steals a leather coat ("$397 from Alexanders" -- a now defunct NYC department store, so forget about getting that baby replaced!) for which he gets his nose broken. Seeking revenge he goes after his assailant with a gun -- and gets his skull creased with a bullet. Meanwhile, a couple of states away, a man climbs up four stories of stairs and drops dead of a heart attack.

I haven't laughed so hard in a VERY long time.

And telling you what I have will not spoil it for you when you see it, as I will explain further down the page.

For it is the story of a Miami loanshark (Chili Palmer, played by John Travolta) who journeys to Las Vegas and then Los Angeles in search of a mark who skipped out on a payment. Give that premise to Martin Scorsese and, well, you can see it in your heads, can't you?

Give it to Addams Family director Barry Sonnenfeld, by way of Elmore Leonard's original novel, and you get a piece of movie making that good actors would sacrifice their agents to the devil to get a piece of. Bad actors would nuke small foreign countries, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

For the skippee not only has the money, he has TONS of it. And why he can't pay it back is one of the delicious twists in this story that I won't give away. It leads to another tiny story, that of an almost over-the-hill producer of schlock movies (Gene Hackman). And to a story of his mistress (Rene Russo), ex-wife to major movie star (Danny DeVito).

Which, under a film noir-ish director would give way to a dark, demented, violent film condemning the bottom-of-the-food-chain environment that is the dark underside of the brilliant lights of Hollywood.

As adapted by Scott Frank (previous work: Little Man Tate), and directed by the twisted Sonnenfeld, Get Shorty is a demented film where the bottom-of-the-food-chain and the top-of-said-chain are not all that different. Mobsters are dumb. Film producers are dumber.

And Travolta walks through it all like the Zen Warrior Richard Gere wishes he could be. There are close to half a dozen stories running and overlapping each other. All involve the Travolta character and he just smiles a vague smile and walks through it all, having the best time of his life.

I think that goes for the actor as well as the character. The role of Chili Palmer fits Travolta like a glove. It's Barbarino twenty years later, doing what he doesn't want to do, but still having all the smarts Mr. Kotter always knew he did.

It's brilliant.

And I'm going to stop right here, 'cuz anything more I could say would give too much away. And this critic don't do that. So . . .

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for Get Shorty, he would have paid . . .


(I reserve the perfect "8" for films that I would immediately turn around and buy another ticket for.)

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