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Short Changing Hollywood

So similar are Hollywood and the mob, the two end up interchangeable by the close of Get Shorty. There’s little culture clash as an east coast, Floridian loan shark flies off to the west coast to collect cash from a low-rent movie producer past his prime. Instead, the two end up as friends. They work together. Their businesses meld.

That’s a strong skewering of the Hollywood system, this from the mind of author Elmore Leonard. John Travolta takes most of the reins, the cool, calm loan shark who picks apart the necessary systems to weasel his way into the production process. Get Shorty doesn’t like any of this, but it’s also enamored with the whole of it all.

Look into the office of B-movie mogul Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman). It’s littered with cardboard standees of sea monsters, vampires, and dinosaurs, most of them redressed from real world ‘50s offerings. Zimm’s office is the pool bottom of filmmaking, so no wonder he’s under water to local mobsters. Zimm still makes movies, but only on the dollar of those willing to finance him – and they put themselves there only for a return with interest, or else.

It’s a crass and shrill take down of the systems and the stars who enable them

The art of moviemaking, so says Get Shorty, exists for the dollars, nothing more. It’s a crass, shrill, and funny take down of the systems and the stars who enable them. There’s Danny DeVito as lead actor Martin Weir; he’s led along onto an absurd project without a clue the story he’s acting in is true. Weir is in it for himself, to fund his ludicrous mansion.

Get Shorty is covered with a dry sarcasm. DeVito gets it. So too does Travolta. All together, the cast is in on the gag, ripping apart their industry with subtle jibs and jabs. The clueless Hackman is successfully planted to represent a slew of sheepish industry types, peddling his muck through the system, desperate to see it made. Pressure from mobsters make it worse.

They key scenes of Get Shorty all involve a sparkle-in-the-eye on the part of the corrupt gangsters. Travolta shares a scene with Delroy Lindo as they go over a script, discussing changes and how best to handle the material, this while working on opposing sides of the criminal underground. They smile with shared interest – the allure of moviemaking (and the familiarity of the enterprise) turned them into temporary pals. That’s clever, taking shots at the underside of the studio system and what it takes to see a movie through, plus who gets paid in the end. Chances are, it’s not the audience who wins.


Shout issues Get Shorty with what the box art states is a new 4K master. Certainly, the color is an improvement from before. A yellow suit worn by Lindo shines on this disc. There’s a red Porsche that beams saturation too. Other primaries receive new zest, although this does cause a negative impact to the flesh tones. Too often they drift toward chalky and orange. This is especially true the first time DeVito comes down the stairs in his mansion.

Overall resolution sags, leaving most scenes softened and dulled. Facial detail is evident. Textural qualities fail to impress, from exteriors to close-ups. It’s passable, if never to a striking degree that a modern 4K transfer typically produces.

With the encode, this Shout Select release is capable of resolving a minuscule grain structure. Dense black levels keep noise out of shadows and overall contrast runs perky. It’s bright, with plenty of energy. That dimension is a saving grace of a so-so presentation.


Airports factor prominently in this mix. Airplanes pass around the soundstage as they come in for landing, keeping this DTS-HD mix active. General ambiance from the bustle of the concourse nicely breaks out from the center too.

General fidelity runs high. Age doesn’t diminish the clarity. A nice bass line runs under the jazz-driven score, smooth and clean.


Director Barry Sonnenfeld provides commentary, and he’s everywhere else in these bonus features too. Look at Me runs 27-minutes, the first featurette that looks at the source novel and how to translate it to the screen. Each character gets their due in Wise Guys and Dolls, a 20-minute piece. Going Again is quite interesting, looking at how Sonnenfeld let DeVito run out the reel in a key scene. Random set footage is collected for Party Reel, running close to six minutes.

An older making of seems redundant now, Page to Screen, but to make a complete package, it’s included. Four interview snippets with Sonnenfeld come next (six minutes all together), and the making of a deleted scene starring Ben Stiller is explored in the excellent The Graveyard Scene.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Get Shorty
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Get Shorty properly skewers Hollywood by drawing connections to how the business operates and the mob, and idea sold by great performances.

User Review
3 (1 vote)

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