In honour of the passing of Elmore Leonard last week, I’ve embarked on a mission to watch 10 movies based on the writer’s books. In the first entry, I reviewed 52 Pick-Up, a 1986 film directed by John Frankenheimer and starring Roy Scheider and Ann-Margret. In the second: Killshot (2008) and Jackie Brown (1997). Now, here’s my take on 1995′s Get Shorty…
Here’s another one I saw when it was first released, and recall enjoying. However, unlike Jackie Brown, which has gotten better with age, Get Shorty is a depressingly unfunny Leonard pastiche that gets everything wrong.
Which is funny, a little, since 1995 movie is regarded as one of the best in the pantheon of Elmore Leonard novels adapted for the big screen.
Looking back on it now, however, the movie is obviously little more than a vehicle for John Travolta to strut the new cool he sported in the previous year’s Pulp Fiction. However, Travolta is the best thing about the movie, which is so broadly humorous that it thinks the height of hilarity is Gene Hackman‘s producer character going to the Ivy (a fancy Hollywood hang) in a neck brace and two arm casts. In another scene, a mobster (Dennis Farina) is shown sitting on the toilet. There’s no real reason for him to be taking a dump in the scene, except maybe director Barry Sonnenfeld thought it would be funny. (It’s not.)
The end result is a movie that tries hard to be funny without having really anything funny to say, beyond the idea of a loan-shark successfully navigating Hollywood. But that’s a joke that, like everything else in Get Shorty, is hammered home again and again by crap artist Sonnenfeld (Men in Black, The Wild Wild West) and screenwriter Scott Frank (who also wrote the screenplay for 1998′s Out of Sight, another Leonard movie). And, besides missing the dry humour of Leonard’s writing, Get Shorty also fails to capture the menace.
For those new to Leonard’s writing, Get Shorty is a fairly harmless entry-point. For admirers, it’s not much better than the “Slime Creatures” movies Hackman’s Harry Zimm produces.