"I got an idea for a movie."Loan shark Chili Palmer hates his job, especially with his new boss still holding a grudge over that time Chili broke his nose and shot at him. When a dry cleaner in to him for a hundred large dies on a plane, he goes to the wife to see if the insurance settlement can cover his debt, only to find out that the son of a bitch isn't dead. So Chili follows the dry cleaner to Las Vegas to find he's moved on to Los Angeles. While he's in LA, he agrees to do a favor for the casino management and check in with a movie producer who still owes on a marker. Chili, however, is something of a movie aficionado, and likes the idea of working in the movie business — so when he meets Harry, the producer, he takes the opportunity to pitch his story to him. They hit it off, so to get Harry to help him make his movie, he agrees to help Harry with his money problems. The story takes off from there as Chili tangles with Harry's crooked creditors, helps him raise the money to make what he thinks will be his best movie ever, and ultimately puts off his old boss as he gets involved in the movie business.A 1990 novel by Elmore Leonard, Get Shorty was adapted into a 1995 film directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, starring John Travolta as Chili alongside an all-star cast including Gene Hackman, Danny DeVito, and Rene Russo. Both the novel and movie are an Affectionate Parody of the film industry, and both were well-received in and out of Hollywood — well received enough, in fact, that Leonard wrote a rare sequel to one of his books, Be Cool. It was not as well received, though compared to its film adaptation, its reception was quite warm indeed.
— Chili Palmer
The novel and film provide examples of:
- Adaptational Villainy: Sort of. In the book, Ray Bones is a lot more menacing and a lot less of a complete moron than he is in the movie. However, while for much of the book he's mentioned as an ominous soon-to-arrive threat, when he eventually shows up Chili ends up dealing with him fairly quickly. However, in the movie, while he's a lot stupider he's also around more often, shows up in Los Angeles much sooner and consequently is a lot more of an active threat. Specifically, the scene where he shows up at Harry's office, beats the crap out of Harry and then shoots Ronnie doesn't appear in the book.
- Affably Evil: Ray Bones tries coming across as this at times, but the fact that he's both a complete Jerkass and an idiotic dickhead just makes him seem insincere as well as threatening.
- Chili himself is affable to the point of being the nicest guy on the planet, even though he's a loan shark and shakedown artist extraordinaire. He'll only hit you if he has to, and even then he'll help you get back on your feet.
- Bo Catlett is a pretty charming guy, but when you scratch the surface is a vicious sociopath underneath.
- Always Camp - Actors and directors. Loan sharks, punk rockers and producers, not so much.
- Angrish: Ray Bones, usually after a run in with Chilli.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Karen, despite knowing Chili is a criminal, she gets involved with him. This ends up getting her kidnapped and nearly killed.
- Anti-Hero - Chili's a mobster. Not a strong example, though, since throughout the movie he makes it clear that while he can back it up, most of his threats needn't be heeded because he's just so intimidating. When he's not shaking people down or intimidating people, he's also a very likeable and charming guy in many ways.
- As Himself - The final scene of the movie is the filming of Chili's movie. In it, Harvey Keitel plays himself playing Ray Bones, and Penny Marshall plays herself as the director.
- Author Avatar - In-Universe, as the main character in the Show Within a Show is based on Chili.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Chili is very pleasant, calm and affable, but don't mistake that for being a pushover.
- Black and Grey Morality: Chili, while a gangster and a loan shark, is an incredibly charming and likable guy who, while he can be incredibly intimidating, rarely uses force or violence unless he's provoked into it. His opponents Ray "Bones" and Bo Catlett however, have practically no redeeming characteristics whatsoever.
- Briefcase Full of Money: Two, actually. There's the $500K of drug money at the airport, and there's Leo's $300,000 in a duffel bag, which was the reason Chili went to LA to begin with.
- Brooklyn Rage - Weir describers doing his acting research in Bensonhurst to capture New Yorkers' unique attitudes. Chili, however, is a subversion as he's one of the most even-tempered characters in the movie, even while others goad him.
- Catch Phrase - "Look at me."
- Chekhov's Gun: The $500,000 dollars in drug money sitting in a rented locker at the airport; it's there for the taking, with the snag that it's been sussed out by DEA agents who are have it under 24/7 surveillance waiting to pounce on whoever opens the locker and bust them. Ray "Bones" is the unlucky S.O.B who ends up opening the locker.
- The Chessmaster - Chili. He's the smartest guy in every room, and manages to work the following Gambit Pileup threads to his advantage, all at the same time:
- Harry needs the limo guys off his back so he can make his movie.
- The limo guys want Chili out of the way so they can be the chief investors on Harry's movie. And they need money to pay off the Colombian drug lords, to replace the aforementioned watched $500K.
- Leo wants to escape Chili with his life insurance payout.
- Harry wants Martin Weir to star in his movie
- Ray Bones wants Leo's money and revenge on Chili.
- With all that going on, Chili manages to get his own movie made with a big star, get the girl and get out from under Bones and the limo guys by playing one against the other
- Cluster F-Bomb - Bones. To everyone. All the time."They say the fuckin' smog's the fuckin' reason you have such beautiful fuckin' sunsets."
- (Ray directs a cab driver where he's heading) "The fuckin' airport!"
- Precisely 50% of Harvey Keitel's dialogue.
- Damsel in Distress: Karen is kidnapped by Bo and rescued by her lover, Chili.
- Deadpan Snarker: Karen, very sassy woman.
- Death Glare - Chili makes good use of these, often commanding people "Look at me" to that he can aim one at them. Martin is intrigued by it so much that he spends a scene trying to imitate it, with Palmer coaching him on how to do it right.
- Harry's attempt to copy the effect with Ray Bones is a hilarious Epic Fail.
- The Ditz: A variation; Ray Bones is a big, intimidating mobster. He's also a complete fucking idiot.Ray Bones: Let me explain something to you. Momo is dead. Which means that everything he had now belongs to Jimmy Cap, including you. Which also means, that when I speak, I speak for Jimmy. E.g., from now on, you start showing me the proper fucking respect.
Chili: "E.g." means "for example". What I think you want to say is "i.e.".
Ray Bones: Bullshit. It's short for "ergo".
Chili: Ask your man.
Bodyguard: Best of my knowledge, "e.g." means "for example".
Ray Bones: E.g., i.e., fuck you! The point is this: is that, When I say "jump", you say "OK", okay?
- Dynamic Entry: Chili pops Ray Bones in the nose the second he opens the door, then calmly collects his leather jacket and leaves.
- Establishing Character Moment: Ray might have just been a Jerk Ass until he punches Leo's wife in the face.
- Exact Words: When going over to Ray's house to confront him over stealing his coat, Chili assures his partner that he "won't say anymore than he has to, if that". When he gets there, he breaks Ray's nose, grabs his coat and leaves, not saying a word.
- Fish out of Water - Lampshaded, but subverted. Chili's direct manner is frequently discussed as being at odds with the Hollywood machine, yet he's well-liked by all the actors, agents and other Hollywood archetypes he encounters.Bo: It says here you're getting Martin Weir for the part of Lovejoy?Chili: That's right, we're getting Martin.Bo: Come on, how you gonna do that?Chili: I'm gonna take a gun, I'm gonna put it to his head, and say, "sign the fucking papers, Martin, or you're dead." That's it.Bo: I wonder, would that work?
- That's not necessarily what happens as Chili is somewhat starstruck at first when he meets Martin.
- Friendly Enemy: Of a sort; Ray Bones's goon is tough and intimidating towards Chili when Bones is in the room, but as soon as he leaves loosens up and seems to agree with Chili that his boss is a dick.Goon: [Intimidating] This man is the man. You get what I'm saying? This here is Mr. Bones. You speak to Mr. Bones from now on.
[Bones leaves the room]
Chili: C'mon, you can do better than him.
Goon: [Casually] Not these days. Not less you speak Spanish.
- Gambit Pileup - Everybody but Karen and the Bear has an agenda in the movie, and those agendas collide with one another more often than they work out as planned. Chili plays them all like a finely-tuned piano.
- Hand Gagging: Bo puts his hand over Karen's mouth after she screams to kidnap her.
- Hoist by His Own Petard - Bo gets killed by the same trap he created to kill Chili
- I Was Never Here: After giving Harry an ass-kicking and them murdering Ronnie, Ray says this while putting the gun in Harry's hand and explaining that Harry did it in self defense.
- Legitimate Businessmen's Social Club in Florida and Hollywood! Vesuvio is an Italian restaurant that while might not be owned my the Mafia, they let Ray Bones do whatever he wants there. Rich's Barber Shop, has the barber actually cutting hair, but the back room is a loan shark office. Even legitimate patrons know its a front and tip off Chili Palmer when someone is coming by coughing. Bo Catlett runs a limo service that is a front for a small time drug ring. And one could say the point of the movie is all of Hollywood is a front for organized crime calling them selves Producers.
- The Load: While Harry Zimm approaches Chili to solve his problems, it soon becomes apparent that Chili would be much better off if he just ditched Harry and went into things by himself. Chili's sense of honour, however, sees him playing more-or-less right by Harry regardless.
- Loan Shark - Chili's trade, often called a "shylock" by various characters. In the book, he notes that he does not use the standard knee-breaking tactics that most people expect from loan sharks, because people with broken knees are even less likely to produce any money.
- Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal - Bear, who ultimately pushes his abusive boss Bo off the same railing he wanted rigged to give "like in the movies" for Chili. It's unwise to threaten your henchman's daughter.
- The Mafia - Chili's a shylock for the Miami mob, though aside from Chili and Ray Bones, most of the wiseguys are bit parts
- The Napoleon: Martin is a powerful but mercurial personality who is also very short. He has also recently played Napoleon in an Oscar Bait movie. The character in the book was apparently based on Dustin Hoffman, but in the film he's played by the even shorter Danny Devito.
- Nobody Poops: Averted. Ray Bones reads Martin Weir's book on the toilet.
- Not So Different: One of the reasons Chili manages to flourish in L.A is because the movie business and the mafia business are not actually that different.
- Chili and Bo Catlett are also both very elegant and stylish men who are career criminals but for reasons of birth don't entirely fit in with the criminal organisations they work for, passionately love movies and are fascinated by the movie business, and view the posturing, obnoxious behaviour of their fellow criminals with a certain amount of withering contempt.
- Pants-Positive Safety: One of Bo's thugs tries to threaten Ray Bones with a gun tucked in his waistband. A Too Dumb to Live move if there ever was one, because Ray Bones has his own gun in his hand. Ray says as much before killing him.
- Punch Clock Villain:
- Bear is an ex-stuntman who has to work for Bo to take care of his daughter. He's clearly a pretty honorable guy and is not very comfortable with Bo's more sociopathic and violent tendencies. He finally stands up to Bo and quits, but is coerced into staying which facilitates his later heel/face turn.
- Bones' black bodyguard is stuck working for him because better jobs are hard to come by unless you speak Spanish.
- Chili himself might count; he's a loan shark, a crook and a gangster, but when he's not shaking down people for money (and even when he is, kind of) he's mostly a rather charming, pleasant and likable guy.
- Railing Kill - Bo does this to Yeyo, and considered killing Chili by getting him to lean against loose railing.
- Real Life Writes the Plot / Reality Subtext - If you listen to the commentary and watch the Making Of specials on the DVD, you will learn that what the book is making fun of how movies are made actually happened in this movie, to an extremely funny and ironic level. Examples include:
- Danny DeVito bought the rights to the movie before actually reading it, just like Chili Palmer in the book/film.
- Danny DeVito was originally going to play the role of Chili Palmer, but he and other producers thought he'd be too short for the role, which is the ending punch line of the movie!
- Danny DeVito was asked a question in the Making Of interviews and starts rambling in an arrogant way and then admits that he forgot what the original question was, totally as his character Martin Weir would do.
- Danny DeVito, and other actors admit to ordering totally off menu and not knowing their own address just like Martin Weir.
- Real Men Wear Pink - Ray Bones wears a lot of pastels, including pink, partly due to being from Miami. Bo Catlett's bathroom is also very pink, and he's very protective of his sparkling white carpets. Both of them kill at least one person in cold blood over the course of the story.
- Real Person Cameo - Ernesto "Chili" Palmer, Elmore Leonard's inspiration for the lead character, was cast as one of Ray Bones's sycophants.
- Reliably Unreliable Guns: This trope is subverted when Ronnie mocks Ray Bones' choice of weapon (AMT Backup, a small but effective pistol). Ronnie, perhaps thinking he's Genre Savvy, says "What's that, a Wop 9? The Fiat of guns, always jammin' on you at the wrong time". Bones just shrugs and happily demonstrates his gun's effectiveness by popping 4 bullets in Ronnie's chest.
- Revolvers Are Just Better - Averted. During the scene where Ray is threatened with a revolver by one of Bo's thugs (see Pants-Positive Safety), the thug reckons that Ray's automatic will jam. It doesn't.
- Screaming Woman - Karen Flores's claim to fame in Harry's low-budget monster movies when she was a young woman. She reveals that even in her late thirties that she can still belt one out. this ends up being both a Chekhov's Gun and ironic as the only time she screams is late in the movie which alerts Bo to her presence and he subsequently puts his hand over her mouth and kidnaps her.
- Shadow Archetype - Bo Catlett loves movies as much as Chili does and can be quite affable, but he's a lot more ostentatious and much more ready to use violence. Also, both have mixed ethnic ancestry. Chili is half-Italian, half-Hispanic, which prevented him from being a bonafide mobster; Catlett is half-black, half-Native American and also experienced prejudice as a child (worse prejudice which explains his much more violent behavior).
- Shock Party - For poor Momo. He doesn't take it very well.
- Shout-Out: Chili goes to see a screening of Touch of Evil, knowing it so well that he repeats the lines. Then Rio Bravo on the TV makes Chili go into another movie buff spiel.
- The Stoic: Chili Palmer rarely raises his voice or loses his temper that we see.
- Surrounded by Idiots - Chili is surrounded by Ray Bones, Leo DeVoe, Harry Zimm and Bo Catlett — they're not all necessarily idiots, but they are to a man shortsighted, self-centered and entirely convinced they are neither of those things...
- Title Drop: Karen suggests it as the title of Chili's movie.
- Too Dumb to Live: Ronnie, Bo's associate, does not seem to understand that a gun in your belt does little good at close range against someone with a drawn weapon.
- Tranquil Fury - Chili's Backstory reveals that his nickname started as an ironic poke at his temper, but throughout the story nothing sets him off and what little does get him angry warrants a calm, dispassionate Death Glare. The novel also reveals that the nickname stuck because he lost the hot-headedness, and manages his temper through those cool, stony glares instead.
- Trespassing to Talk: Chili breaks into Karen's house to deliver the shylock message to Harry who's sleeping there -then pitches his movie idea. Karen kicks them both out. The next day she comes home to find Chili waiting in her house to apologize.Karen: "You broke in to apologize for breaking in before?"
- Wicked Cultured - Chili, Bo, and even somewhat Ray all fit this.
- Would Hit a Girl: Ray.
- Wrong Restaurant: The obnoxious, pint-sized prima donna Martin Weir makes a point of ordering whatever he feels like at the moment, regardless of whether it's on the menu or at all appropriate for the restaurant. Then he plucks his incredulous lunch guests' menus out of their hands and does the same for them.