A film fanatic, Chili has tired of the Mob scene and moves to Los Angeles, to collect a debt owed by low budget horror film producer Zimm (Gene Hackman). After meeting Zimm, Chili decides to partner with him on an A-list project starring the celebrated Martin Weir (Danny DeVito).
Chili also steals Zimm's jaded actress girlfriend, Karen (Rene Russo). This frees Zimm up for a romance with producer Bette Midler. As Zimm's gains momentum, gangster Bo Catlett (Delroy Lindo) wants in. Bo's bodyguard is former stuntman Bear (James Gandolfini).
Confrontations ensue between Bo and Chili, and Ray Bones arrives to further complicate matters.
How others will see it. Get Shorty was a box office triumph, with a worldwide theatrical gross of about four times its budget. It was also a success on the festival circuit. At the Golden Globes, John Travolta won best actor in a comedy, and the film was nominated for best comedy and best screenplay. Director Barry Sonnenfeld was nominated for a Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival.
Today at imdb.com, the movie has a reasonable 69K user votes. The user ratings are consistent, and fairly high, at 6.9 out of 10. The user reviews are predominantly positive, one calling it a "smart, funny, devastating satire of the Hollywood scene." The casting, the actors, the score, and the witty screenplay are generally praised.
Naysayers exist, of course. Some fans of Elmore Leonard were not amused, and others simply did not find the movie to be either funny or entertaining. They are decidedly in the minority.
In Get Shorty, Fonzie has grown up and become a film-loving, sharp-dressing gangster. Thankfully, he doesn't say "A-a-a-a-a-y" anymore, and he has learned to smile when the occasion is appropriate. And he is ever so polite to women, though he gets the best of gangsters and Hollywood types like Bugs Bunny gets the best of Elmer Fudd or Daffy Duck.
The viewer must accept that Travolta will never lose his cool, and will always get his way. It is then possible to appreciate Get Shorty (the title is apparently a reference to casting moviestar DeVito in a Hollywood project) for what it is, an actor's showcase and an above-average comedy.
In Get Shorty, the hoary rule that Crime Does Not Pay has one exception: Chili Palmer. Chili is a gangster who steals stolen money from Leo, assaults and shoots a rival, and kills another rival. But since all three of his victims deserved was coming to them (if you don't give the hapless Leo a pass), then what he did must be okay, and the same presumably goes with his many criminal acts that must have preceded the rolling of the opening credits.