BLU-RAY REVIEW / FRAME SHOTS
“GET SHORTY COLLECTOR’S EDITION”
Blu-ray; 1995; R for profanity and some violence; Streaming via Amazon Prime Video, FandangoNOW, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube
Best extra: All good, especially commentary by Director Barry Sonnenfeld, and the making-of, “Look at Me”
ELMORE LEONARD was no stranger to Hollywood. He wrote 45 novels and hundreds of short stories, many that were adapted into screenplays such as “3:10 to Yuma,” “Out of Sight,” “Jackie Brown,” “Hombre” and “The Big Bounce.” His Emmy-winning TV series “Justified,” starring Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins, remains a standout.
So does “Get Shorty,” a crime caper that earned a Golden Globe for John Travolta’s performance as Chili Palmer, and nominations for Best Motion Picture and Best Screenplay. Director Barry Sonnenfeld (“Men in Black”) and other filmmakers know it as “Elmore Leonard’s revenge,” a captivating bit of data found among the bonus features in Shout Select’s new Blu-ray release. A chunk of the film’s humor comes from the roundabout way movies are made.
Remastered from a new 4K transfer, “Get Shorty” is typical of the excellent 1080p presentations Shout has manufactured over the past few years such as the Robert Mitchum double feature “Farewell My Lovely” and “The Big Sleep”; John Carpenter’s “The Thing,” and the newly released “City Slickers,” with Billy Crystal and Oscar winner Jack Palance. They look and sound great, and the bonus features are plentiful and good.
Leonard’s stories are driven by its characters; the plots – which can become increasingly complex – seem almost secondary. Chili Palmer is a collector for mobster Momo, who meets a unique end near the start of the film. That leaves him in the hands of his enemy, Ray “Bones” Barboni (Dennis Farina), whose bluster is only exceeded by his lack of intelligence. Barboni is an old style thug stuck in a modern world.
Palmer is sent to Hollywood to collect a debt, a dream come true for the loan shark. He loves movies from classics to schlock. Sharp and smart, he’s ready to leave gangster life behind to become a producer. But Barboni wants his money, and a piece of Palmer’s hide. Hollywood limo operator and loan shark Bo Catlett (Delroy Lindo) and henchman/stuntman Bear (a young James Gandolfini) show up looking for a piece of the action. Cut rate producer Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman), Oscar-winning goldmine Martin Weir (Danny DeVito) and Karen Flores (Rene Russo), too smart for both men, guide Palmer through the process of getting a film made. It’s far too complicated to describe, but Sonnenfeld and Scott Frank, who adapted Leonard’s short story, and the actors make it work. And work beautifully.
Frank also adapted Leonard’s crime caper “Out of Sight” (1998) starring George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez. He wrote the scripts for “Minority Report” (2002) and “Logan” (2017).
The new 1080p transfer from the new 4K master is presented in 1.85:1 ratio. It was filmed in California – Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, etc. – which sometimes doubles for Miami. Well-saturated color pops, and details in sets and expansive backgrounds are sharp and clear, even in a crowded airport, restaurants and street scenes. (Film buffs might want to pause over Harry Zimm’s office.) Find smooth transitions from scene to scene, with light, consistent film grain. Light and contrast is much better in interior and exterior shots. Complexions look natural. Altogether, this is a distinct improvement over the previous Blu-ray release.
Sound arrives through a DTS-HD 5.1 track, which delivers clear dialogue and surround effects. It seems to be the same as the earlier release, but still good. John Lurie, founder of The Lounge Lizards jazz ensemble with his brother Evan, wrote the score.
These are all carryovers, but they make us long for the early days of DVD and Blu-ray when bonus features were plentiful and loaded with detail from the filmmakers and cast. Barry Sonnenfeld provides plenty of anecdotal and technical detail in his commentary. “Look at Me” is a 27-minute behind-scenes making-of with Leonard, Sonnenfeld, Frank, Travolta and Hackman, all discussing Leonard’s work and how they came to make the film. It was Danny DeVito who bought the book under Sonnenfeld’s advice. He intended to play Chili Palmer, but passed the role to Travolta because of scheduling conflicts.
“Wiseguys and Dolls” explores the characters and the actors who played them including Travolta, DeVito, Russo and Gandolfini; “Going Again!” features DeVito talking about directing and how he would keep going after he flubbed a line. “From Page to Screen” is a 29 minute episode of the Bravo show hosted by Peter Gallagher about making the film. Here we learn there is a real Chili Palmer, a friend and assistant to Leonard.
“Vignettes” are six scenes with Sonnenfeld and DeVito talking about directing. “The Graveyard Scene” is a deleted scene featuring Ben Stiller as an inept director doing a crane shot on a cheap horror film. “Get Shorty Party Reel” is the gag reel.
Stephen King once called Leonard “the great American writer”; he should know. Like King, Leonard’s believable characters handle unbelievable situations with great heart and dialogue. It brings readers and viewers back again and again to their work. “Get Shorty,” now the basis of a cable series on Epix, is one of the best – as much fun today as it was in ’95.
— Kay Reynolds