Movie Report: Get Shorty (1995)

Book coverAh, gentle reader, this film provided a bit of mental relief for me in the real world. When I proposed watching this film, my beautiful wife said to me, “We saw that in the theater.” To which I responded that I had never seen the movie. Given that the film came out two years before we met, we did not see it in the theater. I was pleased to see that she, too, pencils me into some of her memories from that brief interlude between childhood and marriage. I myself have on several occasions said something like, “Remember when we…” only to discover she was not a part of the we I was thinking of. I thought perhaps I alone was muddy on that brief interlude between summer 1994 and early 1997, the interregnum between college and being a couple, which were very busy and whose memories I sometimes retcon my wife into.

At any rate, this film is based on an Elmore Leonard book. A small time loan shark, Chili (played by John Travolta) has a run-in with a henchman of a major Miami player (the henchman played by Dennis Farina) and humiliates the henchman but cannot be retailiated against because of his powerful boss. Chili goes looking for someone who has run out on a debt and whose $10,000 skimming has blossomed with an insurance settlement for a plane crash that the drycleaner/welsher (played by David Paymer, hello, hello–did I see Crazy People with my wife or before?). Chili goes to Vegas, braces the drycleaner, and is asked by the Las Vegas mob to collect on a debt from a horror movie producer, Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman). When Chili breaks into the house where Zimm is staying, he tells Zimm about the adventure he’s on, pitching it as a movie, and Zimm is interested–if Chili can help get the rights to a screenplay held by the writer’s widow (Bette Midler).

Oh, yes, it gets complicated. But it has a movie-within-a-movie that a medieval drama enthusiast would enjoy. It’s chock full of stars, and it has clever twists that you would expect from an Elmore Leonard book-turned-movie (see also Out of Sight and Jackie Brown, neither of which I’ve actually reported on… yet). I said to my wife after having seen the film that it’s a shame that they don’t make movies from Elmore Leonard books any more, but they’re still making them. Get Shorty had its sequel Be Cool and a television series; 3:10 to Yuma had a remake; Justified was based on a series of books by Leonard, and it’s getting a revival.

Probably a better question, with a worse answer, is why we don’t make writers like Elmore Leonard any more. Or why Hollywood would not adapt their works if we did.

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