Film: Get Shorty

"I got an idea for a movie."
Chili Palmer

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.

Originally a novel by Elmore Leonard, Get Shorty was made into a 1995 film starring John Travolta as Chili alongside an all-star cast including Gene Hackman, Danny DeVito and Rene Russo and directed by Barry Sonnenfeld. 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.

The novel and film provide examples of:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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!"
  • 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?
    Bo: I wonder, would that work?
    • That's not necessarily what happens as Chili is somewhat starstruck at first when he meets Martin.
  • 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.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard - Bo gets killed by the same trap he created to kill Chili
  • 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. 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.
  • 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 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 a thug mocks Carboni's choice of weapon (AMT Backup, a small but effective pistol). The thug, 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," to which Carboni responds by slinging four rounds through the man'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.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • Too Dumb to Live: Ronnie, Bo's associate.
  • 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: Chillie 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 Chillie 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.