1995 - R - 105 Mins.
|Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
|Written By: Scott Frank and Elmore Leonard (novel)
|Starring: John Travolta, Gene Hackman, Rene Russo, Danny DeVito, James Gandolfini, Delroy Lindo
|Review by: John Ulmer
"Get Shorty" is supposed to be a mix between an Elmore Leonard novel (which it is based on), a Quentin Tarantino film, and a funny comedy. Too bad "funny comedy" can't be classified any clearer, because while I found "Get Shorty" amusing, it's nothing great. "Get Shorty" has to be one of the most overrated comedies I've seen in a long time. I expected something extremely clever and witty, and all I got was a funny-yet-average comedy that tries hard to evoke laughs and ends up with a sappy and predictable ending.
John Travolta plays a gangster oozing of self-confidence and charisma. He is a great mob collector, but he's always wanted to get in the Hollywood spot his whole life. So the movie follows him on a quest to make a movie in Hollywood, with the help of film producer Gene Hackman and the romantic interest of the film, Rene Russo. Danny DeVito joins in on the ride as a Hollywood filmmaker, and James Gandolfini plays a big, fierce but loveable hitman.
"Get Shorty" starts off with Travolta making his gangster rounds, and I was waiting to be extremely amused and absorbed in the film. But as it dragged on, I found that the film didn't really seem to go anywhere. It wanders around a lot, being something different than it could have been. I know a lot of people cherish this film, but pardon my ignorance: I don't see the attraction. What exactly is so darn funny about this film? Just because a comedy is dark, violent and slightly controversial doesn't always equal laughs. I try to dissect the thinking process of the filmmakers: violence + darkness + comedy = good movie. Unfortunately, this is how I view it: over-the-top, LOOK AT ME--I'M ORIGINAL-type-violence + wannabe Quentin Tarantino darkness = slightly amusing but all-in-all disappointing comedy. I'm not one to complain about pointless, gratuitous violence in film: I think people go over the top on bashing violent films. But to have violence just for the sake of trying to be original is like making an R-rated porno movie just to get people to wander at how it didn't get rated X. By making people gasp at an element of the film can be good, but not when it is in the way of, "Wow! How did they get away with that?"--it's just being controversial for the sake of being controversial. Making a movie like "Get Shorty" is a way for studio executives to cash in on a film that disguises language for intelligence, violence for fashion and darkness for smarts.
But apart from picking on this film, there are some things to praise it for. For example, the characters are well developed, and there are some great actors in this movie, even though I'm not a fan of Travolta. I just wish there had been a little more thought put into it, other than a bunch of filmmakers sitting down and trying to think of a controversial comedy.
Barry Sonnenfeld (director of "Men in Black") doesn't use the same humor as his previous films here, and I guess he does a fine job of adding a hint of darkness to the tale. But I can't help but wonder if Danny DeVito himself could have done a finer job.
All in all, disappointing, but still worth seeing when you've got the time.
I fear this is one of those comedies that I'll really love the second time around--I'll let you know if I enjoyed it more if I ever see it again.