Get Shorty
Get shorty.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBarry Sonnenfeld
Screenplay byScott Frank
Based onGet Shorty
by Elmore Leonard
Produced byDanny DeVito
Michael Shamberg
Stacey Sher
CinematographyDonald Peterman[1]
Edited byJim Miller
Music byJohn Lurie
Jersey Films
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • October 20, 1995 (1995-10-20)
Running time
105 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$30 million[2]
Box office$115.1 million[3]

Get Shorty is a 1995 American gangster comedy film directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and written by Scott Frank. Based on Elmore Leonard's novel of the same name, the film stars John Travolta, Gene Hackman, Rene Russo, Delroy Lindo, Dennis Farina, and Danny DeVito. The film follows Chili Palmer (Travolta), a Miami mobster and loan shark, who inadvertently gets involved in Hollywood feature film production.

A sequel, Be Cool, which was also based on an Elmore Leonard novel, was released in 2005. In 2017, Get Shorty inspired a television series of the same name.


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Ernesto "Chili" Palmer, a Miami loan shark, mobster, and movie buff, gets his leather jacket and car keys taken from a restaurant coat room by rival mobster Ray "Bones" Barboni. Going to Bones', he breaks his nose and takes them back.

Days later, Bones attacks Chili in revenge. Expecting him, he grazes Bones' forehead non-fatally, intentionally leaving a scar. Bones unsuccessfully calls for a hit on Chili, as the bosses of their crews don’t want a mob war and his boss Jimmy Cap realizes Bones provoked him.

A month later, Chili's Miami mob boss in NYC 'Momo' dies of a heart attack, making Bones his direct boss. 'Inheriting' Chili, and his Miami list of outstanding loans, which has to be handed over to him updated and paid. A debt Chili wrote off as the client, dry cleaner Leo Devoe died in a plane crash, he is sent to check with his widow Faye if he had life insurance. She surprises Chili with the news that he left the plane after boarding. Scamming the airline out of $300,000 in life insurance, Leo is enjoying it alone in Las Vegas.

As Chili tracks down Leo at Las Vegas casino 'The Mesas', it's director of gaming asks him to help collect a large debt from well-known B horror movie director Harry Zimm in LA. Quickly locating him in actress Karen Flores' home, he wakes him and calmly explains he must pay his casino debt. He then pitches the dry cleaner’s mob debt and the plane crash story as a unique idea for a movie, seeing an opportunity to get into a better line of business--the movies.

Harry sees Chili as a tough guy to help him delay movie work with a $200,000 investment from Bo Catlett (owner of a limo service, a front for drug dealing). Harry cannot make the movie he has planned, as he gambled away the production money. He reveals the film he really wants to make, one with a great script, 'Mr. Lovejoy'. Both mobsters decide it’s their chance to become movie producers. The scriptwriter, Murray Saffron, recently died of a heart attack, so his widow, Doris controls his estate.

Bo has left the payment for a large drug deal in a LAX locker, but the Colombian sent to collect it, Yayo, fears DEA agents. That night, Yayo tells Bo that if he is arrested with the cash, he will squeal on him, leading Bo to shoot him dead. Soon after, he is visited by Colombian drug lord, Mr. Escobar, who demands both his money and Yayo -- his nephew.

With Karen Flores' help, Chili gets a meeting with A-list Hollywood actor, her ex Martin Weir, who loves the role. Harry becomes jealous of Chili and Karen's partnership, fearing they'll steal his project.

Feeding Harry's suspicions, Bo offers the locker money to him as an investment in the film, suggesting he send Chili to get it so the DEA get him. Sensing a trap, Chili rents a nearby locker as a test, and is interrogated by agents. Bo's henchman Bear jumps him in the parking garage, demanding the key. Chili winds him and then chats with him, fascinated by Bear's former work as a Hollywood stunt man.

After being intimate with Doris, Harry drunkenly calls Bones about Leo Devoe's scam. Bones immediately flies to LA, seeking the money from Leo. Surprising Harry at his office, when Bones is sure he doesn't know where the money is, he brutally beats him. Bo's partner, drug dealer Ronnie Wingate then confronts Bones, and gets shot.

Desperate, Bo kidnaps Karen telling Chili to bring the dry-cleaner's money as ransom. When he arrives with it, Chili seems to fight with Bear, during which Bo falls through the deck railing to his death, set up by Chili and Bear.

Returning to his hotel room, Chili is surprised by Bones, who demands the money from Leo. Searching his pockets, he finds the airport locker key, and Chili tells him the locker is in LAX locker (still being watched by DEA agents). As he is surrounded suddenly, the entire scene switches to the movie version of the story. 'Get Shorty', starring Martin Weir and Harvey Keitel, produced by Chili and Karen and directed by Harry Zimm. When the prop gun fails, Harry halts filming for the day.

As they leave, Chili comments to Martin's agent that he is too short to play him, and then he and Karen Flores and the stars of the film leave the studio lot for the day.


Get Shorty also features an appearance from the real Ernest "Chili" Palmer, a Miami loan shark and mob-connected man who inspired the original character.[4]


The movie features an acid- and soul-jazz themed soundtrack with songs by Us3, Morphine, Booker T. & the M.G.'s, Greyboy and Medeski Martin & Wood alongside original compositions by John Lurie.[5] The soundtrack was nominated for a Grammy Award (1997 - Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or for Television).[6]


Warren Beatty, Dustin Hoffman and Michael Keaton were offered the role of Chili Palmer but they all declined.[7][8] Sonnenfeld considered Samuel L. Jackson for the role of Bo Catlett.[9] Steve Buscemi and Matthew McConaughey were considered for the role of Ronnie Wingate.[10]


On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 88% based on 56 reviews, with an average rating of 7.74/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "With a perfect cast and a sly twist on the usual Hollywood gangster dynamic, Get Shorty delivers a sharp satire that doubles as an entertaining comedy-thriller in its own right."[11] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 82 out of 100, based on 22 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[12] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade "B+" on scale of A+ to F.[13] The film was entered into the 46th Berlin International Film Festival.[14]

The film opened at #1 upon its release (10/20-22) with $12.7 million.[15] Get Shorty remained #1 for three consecutive weeks before being overtaken by Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls.[16]


For his role as Chili Palmer, John Travolta received the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. The film also received nominations for the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.


  1. ^ "Perry Moore, 'Narnia' series executive producer, dies at 39; Don Peterman, Oscar-nominated cinematographer, dies at 79; Nancy Carr, network TV publicist, dies at 50". Los Angeles Times. 2011-02-22. Archived from the original on 2013-10-29. Retrieved 2011-02-23.
  2. ^ "Why 'Get Shorty' Is One of the Best Crime Comedies Ever". Collider. October 21, 2020. Retrieved February 5, 2021.
  3. ^ "Get Shorty". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on 15 November 2020. Retrieved 5 November 2011.
  4. ^ Anne E. Kornblut (November 5, 1995). "The Real Chili Palmer". New York Daily News. Retrieved 5 November 2011.
  5. ^ Okamoto, David (October 30, 1995). "'Get Shorty' Scores A Hit With Funky Soundtrack". Dallas Morning News. Retrieved January 16, 2022 – via Chicago Tribune.
  6. ^ "Artist: John Lurie". Grammy Award. Archived from the original on November 15, 2020. Retrieved June 14, 2017.
  7. ^ "15 Fast-Talking Facts About Get Shorty". October 21, 2015.
  8. ^ May 29, PATRICK GOLDSTEIN; Pt, 1995 12 Am (May 29, 1995). "Hangin' With 'Shorty' : A Comic Hollywood Crime Novel Has Brought Out the Tough-Guy Stars--Including John Travolta". Los Angeles Times.
  9. ^ "Netflix's Da 5 Bloods star Delroy Lindo on his most famous roles". The A.V. Club.
  10. ^ "Jon Gries". The A.V. Club.
  11. ^ Get Shorty at Rotten Tomatoes
  12. ^ Get Shorty at Metacritic Edit this at Wikidata
  13. ^ "GET SHORTY (1995) B+". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on 2018-12-20.
  14. ^ "Berlinale: 1996 Programme". Archived from the original on 2012-01-20. Retrieved 2012-01-01.
  15. ^ Robert W. Welkos (24 October 1995). "Weekend Box Office : 'Shorty' Stands Tall in Ticket Sales". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 4 November 2012. Retrieved 5 November 2011.
  16. ^ "Weekend Box Office November 10–12, 1995". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on 15 November 2020. Retrieved 5 November 2011.