Spherical Panavision - 1.85:1
1.70:1 - 16:9 - 1.37:1
Screenplay by: Scott Frank
Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld
Starring: John Travolta, Gene Hackman, Rene Russo, Danny DeVito, Dennis Farina, Delroy Lindo, James Gandolfini, David Paymer, Barry Sonnenfeld, Penny Marshall, Bette Midler, Alex Rocco
"What's the point of living in L.A. if you aren't in the movie business?" muses one of the characters in Get Shorty, and as a longtime resident of L.A. I couldn't agree more. Get Shorty is a very funny commentary on the movie business and those who would be part of it, all dressed up as a gangster film. The story revolves around Chili Palmer (charmingly played by John Travolta), a Miami loanshark who comes to Los Angeles to collect on a couple of debts. Once in L.A., Chili finds small-time movie producer Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman), who owes quite a bit of cash to a Las Vegas casino. While Chili is explaining the ways of the world to Zimm, he also happens to pitch a film idea, and Zimm is immediately hooked. It seems that Chili's dream is to leave the world of gangsters behind and enter the world of movie producing instead. Chili quickly becomes familiar with the tricks of the trade, but finds that his partnership with Zimm needs a bit of work. Before long, Chili finds himself in a budding romance with low-budget "B" movie actress/scream queen Karen Flores (Rene Russo), who is also Zimm's part-time girlfriend. Chili is also determined to sign egotistical but well-loved blockbuster movie star Martin Weir to his project (Danny DeVito in an absolutely hysterical performance; he's also the "Get Shorty" of the title), who also just happens to be Karen's ex-husband. And I haven't even mentioned the assortment of L.A.-based gangsters present in the film, led by actor Delroy Lindo - it seems these show-biz wannabees have been financing Zimm with drug money, and they now want to produce Chili's project and will stop at nothing to get their way. To add to the mayhem, there is an amusing sub-plot concerning various attempts to retrieve a sack of drug money from an airport locker staked out around the clock by about a dozen Feds, and Chili's attempts to fend off Miami rival and recent boss Ray "Bones" Barboni, a bumbling idiot of a gangster played to the hilt by Dennis Farina. David Paymer, director Barry Sonnenfeld (a cameo appearance as a doorman), Harvey Keitel, Penny Marshall, Bette Midler and Alex Rocco also appear in the movie. Oh, and did I remember to tell you about the very cool jazzy score by John Lurie (which my husband insists he has to pick up on CD soon!)? From the characterizations, to the script, to the dialogue, to the settings, to the cinematography - everything about Get Shorty is classy and commendable, and you owe it to yourself to watch this very entertaining black comedy. Of course, you'll get more out of Get Shorty if you live in Los Angeles and are familiar with the ins and outs of the film industry in general, but nevertheless, don't miss this movie!
MGM/UA's DVD release of Get Shorty is also an outstanding presentation, and features both widescreen and standard versions of the film, each contained on its own side of the disc. Get Shorty was filmed in Spherical Panavision and projected at a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, but the letterboxed version (which is also enhanced for 16:9 widescreen TVs) appears with an approximate 1.70:1 aspect ratio since the matte was opened a bit too much. The standard version of the film is presented in the full-frame format, and is not "pan & scan" as listed on the packaging. With this full-frame version, the top of the frame is the same and the sides are slightly cropped, but there is quite a bit more picture information along the bottom edge. While either version does a fine job at presenting Get Shorty, the framing on the letterboxed version (though again it is opened up slightly too much) is more pleasing and obviously more accurate - there is just too much excess picture information at the bottom edge for my tastes, and this is especially noticeable whenever text notes appear onscreen (i.e. "Miami" or "Los Angeles"); while this text should appear along to lower-right edge of the frame, it just seems to hang haphazardly onscreen in the standard version. Overall, the transfer for both versions are extremely good, with a sharply defined image and exquisite colors, making the most out of Get Shorty's complicated lighting schemes/cinematography.
Get Shorty is presented with three different audio tracks - both an English and French language 6-channel Dolby Digital 5.1 surround stereo soundtrack, and a standard Spanish 2-channel surround stereo mix. The English and French Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks both sound strong and fine, but due to the nature of the film itself, don't expect the type of rear channel surround effects that you'd find in a typical action film. Also, as is usual with dubbed versions, the French dialogue seems a bit "brighter" than that present on the English track. The Spanish 2-channel surround mix is also fine, but isn't quite as "wide sounding" as the 5.1 tracks. Due to the programming on the DVD, the three language tracks can only be changed through the menu options, not through your remote.
The Get Shorty DVD has been encoded with standard English, French and Spanish subtitles, as well as descriptive subtitles for the hearing impaired in all three languages. These six subtitling/descriptive tracks can be changed either with the "subtitle" button on your remote or through the menu options. In addition, the disc also features standard closed-captioning in English (which can only be viewed with a closed-caption decoder).
The interactive menu functions for Get Shorty are identical on both sides of the disc. "Play" allows you to return to the film. The "Chapter List" is spread over 10 "pages," and lets you access scenes by number, picture or description (there are five chapter selections for "pages" 1 through 9, and one chapter on "page" 10. "Language Selections" allow you to select your spoken, captioned and subtitled language options. "Theatrical Trailer" allows you to view the 2m39s original theatrical trailer, which is letterboxed at about a 1.77:1 aspect ratio. The trailer is in surround stereo and does not contain any subtitles or closed-captioning.
Get Shorty is encoded for Region 1 players only (U.S., U.S. Territories, Canada), and is packaged in MGM/UA's usual plastic and cardboard "keep case." The inside flap contains a listing of all 46 chapters, and a full-color 10-page booklet of MGM/UA's current DVD catalog is included inside the packaging.
Review by Paula Krispow
Original Review: 06/02/97
Last Updated: 08/22/97