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MGM Studios DVD presents
Get Shorty: CE (1995)

"I'm not gonna say any more than I have to, if that."
- Chili Palmer (John Travolta)

Review By: Joel Cunningham  
Published: February 22, 2005

Stars: John Travolta, Gene Hackman, Renee Russo
Other Stars: Danny DeVito, Dennis Farina, Delroy Lindo, James Gandolfini, David Paymer, Martin Ferrero, Miguel Sandoval, Jon Gries, Linda Hart
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld

MPAA Rating: R for language and some violence
Run Time: 01h:45m:18s
Release Date: February 22, 2005
UPC: 027616919069
Genre: crime


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B+B+B B+

DVD Review

From Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown to Steven Soderbergh's Out of Sight, and even the short-lived and sorely missed TV series Karen Sisco, over the last decade the novels of Elmore Leonard have inspired some of the coolest Hollywood productions around. A lot of the credit goes to 1995's Get Shorty, a Hollywood crime caper from director Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Scott Franks (who later adapted the aforementioned Out of Sight and Spielberg's Minority Report). The movie does just about everything right—it's a sharp satire of deal-making in Hollywood, but never feels too inside or inaccessible, it's got some great dialogue (though most of it is lifted directly from the source novel), and, most importantly, a great cast to deliver it. Sonnenfeld made Leonard cool to movie studios, and for that, I thank him (unfortunately, he subsequently made Men in Black II and can never be cool again).

Our antihero is Chili Palmer, perfectly played by John Travolta, fresh off of Pulp Fiction and at the top of his game as an effortlessly slick, confident hood. Chili is getting bored with the loan sharking business, and when he goes out to Vegas to collect on a debt from small-time movie producer Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman), he figures he'll give Hollywood a try. After all, he loves watching movies (and has a memory for arcane detail about classics and Zimm's Z-grade horror alike), so why can't he make one? Chili has a good story, about Leo (David Paymer), who collected $300,000 in a death settlement when an airline believed he was on a plane that crashed on takeoff, money he technically owed to mob boss "Bones" Barboni (Dennis Farina). The producer can see the potential. In the meantime, he decides to use Chili's imposing presence and criminal know-how to help him get his prestige picture off the ground, a sure-fire Oscar winner slated to star temperamental thespian Martin Weir (Danny DeVito). An award-winner, Weir has a huge ego, and has earned himself the derisive nickname Shorty, which explains the title (which would have been even more appropriate had DeVito played Chili as Sonnenfeld originally intended).

Chili also hooks up with Karen (Rene Russo, smart, sassy, and sarcastic—whatever happened to her career?), Weir's ex-wife and Zimm's frequent headliner, as he navigates the perilous Hollywood back lot, dealing with criminals like Bo (Delroy Lindo), a shady film financer and owner of a limo service who wants the money Zimm owes him, and tries to keep Barboni off his back (he wants to funnel the $300,000 he collected from Leo into his own life story). The joke of Get Shorty is that there isn't much difference between Chili's shady dealings as a loan shark and mob enforcer and his blossoming talents in Hollywood—both businesses are more about ego, manipulation, and strong-arming than actual talent, so why shouldn't he excel at both? After all, as Bo says, in Tinsel Town, all you need is money and an idea. You can pay someone else to "fill in the commas" later.

Get Shorty is fast moving and intelligent, an agreeable big studio concoction built upon Scott Franks' faithful adaptation of Leonard's cinematic best-seller (the author's work is so movie-friendly, it seems it would take more work to turn it into something bad). Sonnenfeld, a former cinematographer, gives the story a hip visual flair, and keeps the plot moving along (indeed, at times I got a bit lost amid all the character introductions). His cast is full of big name actors in somewhat cartoonish roles, but it works—the exaggerated characters fit right into a story that's probably only a little big larger than life.

Hollywood loves to make movies about Hollywood (when it isn't rewarding itself every February for simply being Hollywood), and many of them are very bad (Burn, Hollywood, Burn and The Hollywood Sign, for example), but Get Shorty is one that works. It isn't exactly The Player, but it knows how to play it cool.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: This is a nice looking transfer, if a little on the dark side. The image is slightly soft, but colors are nicely saturated, with good contrast and deep blacks. Aliasing and edge enhancement are an intermittent problem, but not a big detriment.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Spanishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes
DTSEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Audio is presented in a very front-heavy 5.1 and DTS mixes, with little to no input from the surrounds. Speech is clear, and the score and sound effects come across nicely in the front mains, but don't expect an enveloping track.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, Fargo
1 Deleted Scenes
Production Notes
3 Documentaries
2 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Barry Sonnenfeld
Packaging: 2 disc slip case
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Get Shorty Party Reel
  2. Photo gallery
  3. Be Cool sneak peek
Extras Review: Get Shorty was one of the first DVDs MGM released, so the usual complaints about a special edition re-issue don't apply. And though it's really just an excuse to promote the forthcoming sequel (which switches the satirical target from Hollywood to the rap world), this new two-disc set is worth a purchase for fans of the film.

Disc 1's only extra, a commentary from director Barry Sonnenfeld (carried over from the laserdisc), is not essential by any stretch of the imagination, unless you enjoy fawning, complimentary tracks (Danny DeVito is, apparently, too cute. Who knew?). There is some interesting production info sprinkled throughout, but most of it is repeated in the other bonuses.

The bulk of the material appears on Disc 2, and though a lot of it is fluff, there are some decent bonuses, including three fairly lengthy documentaries.

The best of the bunch is the From Page to Screen (29:34) piece on the film from the Bravo Network, hosted by Peter Gallagher. It starts by describing Elmore Leonard's working process and inspirations, then focus on the adaptation of the book into a screenplay. There is a bit of fluff throughout (in the form of sound bites from the actors, mostly), but overall, it's a fairly substantive piece. Get Shorty: Look at Me (26:53) is a new featurette focusing on the main characters and the major themes of the film, with insight from Leonard, Sonnenfeld, and the actors. Travolta's Chili Palmer is the chief subject, but Danny DeVito discusses his character as well.

Wiseguys and Dolls (20:28) focuses on the characters played by Rene Russo and Gene Hackman. Sonnenfeld describes how where each fits into the film, both offer some on-set memories and their impressions of the film 10 years on, and other actors fawn all over them. There are way too many film clips in this slow-moving piece (though the same can be said for all of the bonuses).

The Graveyard Scene is a five-minute featurette on the "funniest scene in the film," as Sonnenfeld says, featuring Ben Stiller as a hyper film director, explaining why it was cut. The complete scene is here as well, and it is pretty funny (I'd like to know whom Stiller is impersonating). Going Again! is another five-minute piece that allows you to watch as the same scene is filmed over and over. It's as fun as it sounds (unless you think it sounds fun at all, because it isn't).

The Party Reel (5:48) is basically a gag reel, filled with random production footage and shots of the actors goofing off. Closing out the extras is the trailer, a photo gallery, and an eight-minute shameless plug, also known as a "sneak peek," for the sequel Be Cool, which opens in March 2005. Early adopters also get $10.50 worth of movie cash to put toward a ticket (expires March 25, 2005).

The set is nicely packaged in a cardboard slipcase with a neat bullet-hole effect around the spindles that hold the discs. The enclosed booklet of production notes is nice, but it's just an enlarged reprint of the "collectible" insert that came with the old single-disc release (ah, to go back to a day when all DVDs had not just inserts, but collectible ones at that!).

Overall, the extras lean a little too heavily on film clips and talking-head interviews, but it's a decent effort as far as special edition re-issues go.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

Get Shorty is a better-than-passable Elmore Leonard adaptation, and though the crime caper/Hollywood satire doesn't match Jackie Brown or Out of Sight, it stands as one of the better cinematic adaptations of the prolific author's prose. The special edition reissue is a little ho-hum, but fans will appreciate the copious extras.

 


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