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, James Gandolfini, 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.


Ernesto "Chili" Palmer is a Miami loan shark and movie buff. When his jacket is taken by rival mobster Ray "Bones" Barboni, Chili retrieves it and breaks Bones' nose. A vengeful Bones ambushes him at his office, but Chili shoots first, grazing Bones' forehead. Bones' boss refuses to retaliate, reminding him that Chili is under the protection of Brooklyn mob boss Momo.

After Momo dies of a heart attack, Bones takes over his operation and demands that Chili collect an outstanding debt from Leo Devoe, a dry cleaner who died in a plane crash. Chili learns from Leo's wife Faye that Leo is alive, having left the plane before takeoff; he was presumed dead when Faye identified his belongings in the crash, and she received $300,000 in life insurance, but Leo ran away with the cash. Chili tracks Leo to a Las Vegas casino, and the director of gaming asks him to collect a debt from B movie director Harry Zimm.

Surprising Harry in Los Angeles at the home of scream queen Karen Flores, Chili pitches him the story of chasing the dry cleaner’s mob debt as an idea for a movie. Harry persuades Chili to help him placate his investor Bo Catlett, owner of a limo service that serves as a drug front. Having gambled away Bo's $200,000 investment, Harry shows him the script he really wants to make, Mr. Lovejoy, but the screenwriter's widow Doris controls the rights. Chili confronts Leo and takes his money to invest in the film, deciding to become a Hollywood producer, and rejects Bo's suggestion that they collaborate.

Bo has left $500,000 in a locker at Los Angeles International Airport for his Colombian contacts to collect. The cartel sends Yayo, who refuses to retrieve the money with the DEA watching. At Bo's cliffside home, Yayo threatens to inform on Bo if he is arrested with the cash; Bo shoots Yayo, knocking him over the deck railing, and plans to eliminate Chili in a similar fashion. He is later visited by Colombian druglord Mr. Escobar, who demands his money and his nephew, Yayo.

Warming to Chili, Karen also wants to become a producer and arranges a meeting with Hollywood star Martin Weir, her ex-husband. Interested in Mr. Lovejoy, Martin is also intrigued by Chili's own pitch and in playing the role of Chili himself. Making Harry jealous of Chili and Karen's partnership, Bo offers him the locker money as a new investment, suggesting he send Chili to fetch it. Sensing a trap, Chili rents a nearby locker instead and is briefly interrogated by the DEA. Bo's henchman Bear demands the locker key back, but Chili subdues him, and they bond over Bear's former career as a stuntman.

After being seduced by Doris, Harry drunkenly calls Bones and tells him that Chili has Leo's money. Having already questioned Faye, Bones flies to Los Angeles and brutally beats Harry, demanding the money. They are interrupted by Bo's associate Ronnie, whom Bones shoots dead and frames Harry. Bear has a change of heart about the plan to kill Chili, but Bo threatens him and his young daughter. Chili and Karen give in to their mutual attraction, and take a badly injured Harry to meet with Martin.

Desperate to pay the Colombians, Bo demands Leo's money from Chili and kidnaps Karen. Chili delivers the money, but Bo and Bear prepare to kill him; in the scuffle, Bo falls through the deck railing to his death, as arranged by Bear, who saves Chili. At Chili's hotel room, Bones demands Leo's money at gunpoint. Chili sends him to the airport locker, where Bones is surrounded by DEA agents.

Some time later, Get Shorty — the movie version of Chili's story — is being filmed, produced by Chili and Karen, directed by Harry, starring Martin as Chili and Harvey Keitel as Bones, with Bear as stunt supervisor. When Martin's prop gun fails, Harry halts filming for the day, to Doris' displeasure. Chili and Karen depart the studio lot, officially Hollywood producers.


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.