Picks and Pans Review: Get Shorty

updated 10/30/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 10/30/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

John Travolta, Rene Russo, Gene Hackman, Danny DeVito

Ironically this playful, thoroughly entertaining spoof of Hollywood moviemaking stems from the more bitter (though equally entertaining) novel by Elmore Leonard. The famous crime writer, apparently disgusted by the mediocre movies Hollywood has made from his previous novels (1988's Glitz, '85's Stick), had the ingenious notion to compare the capricious, dishonorable nature of organized crime to the movie business. In this adaptation, Travolta is a movie-obsessed enforcer for a Miami loan shark. He tracks a delinquent client, David Paymer, to Las Vegas and then to Los Angeles.

Once there he breaks into the house of Russo, a B-movie star who is sleeping with her longtime producer Hackman. Travolta, employing the same intimidation techniques he used in the loan shark business, convinces Hackman to make a movie of his pursuit of Paymer. On the periphery of this budding moguldom are Delroy Lindo, a thuggish drug dealer who has invested money in another Hackman production; James Gandolfini, as a stuntman who doubles as Lindo's muscle; and Dennis Farina, a Miami gangster with a grudge against Travolta. DeVito is a pretentious, Method-style star (and Russo's ex-husband).

Director Barry Sonnenfeld weaves all these threads into a consistently witty whole, aided mightily by the canny Hackman, slyly unscrupulous and manipulative, and the unexpectedly funny Russo, who blithely plays a frowsy actress known mostly for her ability to scream.

More biting a satire than Robert Altman's The Player and more consistently funny, this movie is the best revenge Leonard could hope for. (R)

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