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Get Shorty falls short of Leonard’s cool prose

Elmore Leonard movies Get Shorty
John Travolta and Rene Russo make an attractive pair.

Elmore Leonard Movies—Get Shorty

In honour of the recent passing of Elmore Leonard, I’ve embarked on a mission to watch and review movies based on the writer’s books. In the first entry, I reviewed 52 Pick-UpJohn Frankenheimer directed the 1986 movie, which starred Roy Scheider and Ann-Margret. I also looked at Killshot (2008) and Jackie Brown (1997). Now, here’s my take on 1995’s Get Shorty.

Like Jackie Brown, I recall seeing this in the theatre upon its release, and enjoying it. Unlike Jackie Brown, it has not gotten better with age.

Elmore Leonard movies Get Shorty

With hindsight, the movie is little more than a vehicle for John Travolta to strut the new cool he sported in the previous year’s Pulp Fiction. And Travolta is the best thing about the movie. Director Barry Sonnenfeld seems to believe that the height of hilarity is a movie producer (Gene Hackman) 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.

Elmore Leonard movies Get Shorty
Gene Hackman and Danny Devito in Get Shorty.

Get Shorty tries to be funny. But only the premise of a loan-shark successfully navigating Hollywood is remotely humorous. But that’s a joke that, like everything else in the movie, wears thin. Besides missing the dry humour of Leonard’s writing, Get Shorty also fails to capture the menace.

This is a surprise, considering screenwriter Scott Frank went on to write the superior Out of Sight. One wonders how much of Get Shorty‘s shortcomings are due to Sonnefeld. Or perhaps Frank just needed to get this one out of his system first.

Published inbooksmovies

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