Get Shorty (1995) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • A mobster travels to Hollywood to collect a debt, and discovers that the movie business is much the same as his current job.

  • Some guys get all the luck, whether they like it or not. Chili Palmer happens to be in Hollywood collecting a gambling debt when he's struck by lightning (not literally). Called a natural for the movie business, he's snagged up by a producer. The rest is history.

  • Chili Palmer, a Miami mobster, loan-sharks for Ray Bones, a violent thug with a big chip on his shoulder. Ray sends Chili to Vegas after a bad debt, and a casino boss enlists Chili to find an even bigger deadbeat: Harry Zimm, Hollywood player and producer of low-budget horror films. In Tinseltown, Chili meets Harry, as well as his scream- queen leading lady, Karen Flores; Harry's drug-dealing financier, Bo Catlett; and Karen's ex, Martin Weir (aka "Shorty"), a big star with an ego to match. Chili finds his Mafioso skills lend themselves quite nicely to what he's always really wanted to do: producing movies.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Chilli Palmer (John Travolta) is a loan shark living in Miami, Florida. While sitting in a restaurant on an unusually cold day, he's approached by the cantankerous and egotistical Ray 'Bones' Barboni (Dennis Farina). Bones mocks Chilli's name in reference to the cold weather and leaves with his entourage. Chilli himself is unfazed by Bones' remarks. When Chilli gets ready to leave, he finds that his prized leather coat has been stolen from the cloak room. When he questions the restaurant's manager, he finds out that Bones left with it. Chilli has his assistant drive him to Bones' apartment where he hits Bones square in the nose and takes his coat. Bones later shows up at Chilli's barber shop -- a front for his loan sharking business -- and plans to sneak up on Chilli and shoot him. Chilli's staff are able to warn him and when Bones bursts into his office, Chilli shoots Bones, grazing his forehead and sending Bones back out yelling. Bones later tries to appeal to his own boss Jimmy Capp (a cameo by Alex Rocco) who tells him that as long as Chilli works for a Brooklyn gangster, Momo, that Chilli can't be killed.

    In Brooklyn, Momo himself is driven to one of his warehouses. He labors up the stairs and, out of breath, knocks on a door and is told to come inside. A large group of people yell "SURPRISE!!"; it's Momo's birthday and they'd planned a party for him. Momo raises his hand to his chest as if emotionally overcome and suddenly drops forward, dead.

    Palmer now finds himself working for Bones. Bones is upset with Palmer for not collecting a loan from dry cleaner Leo Devoe (David Paymer) who was recently killed in an airliner crash. Bones directs Palmer to get the money from Devoe's widow (Linda Hart).

    Visiting the widow, Palmer finds out that Devoe is not actually dead, but got off the plane at the last minute and has used the accident to fake his death to get out of the loan and, through his wife, collect a $300,000 life insurance settlement from the airline. Devoe has taken the money out of the state, but never sent for his wife. Angry, she lets Palmer know that he is in Las Vegas.

    Palmer travels to Vegas and meets with a casino chief who tells him that Devoe has managed to gamble his winnings up to $500,000 and has moved on to Los Angeles. The casino chief asks Palmer while he is in L.A. if he can visit low budget movie producer Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman) and remind Zimm that he owes the casino $150,000 for gambling debts.

    Palmer arrives in Los Angeles and traces Zimm to the house of his sometimes girlfriend, actress Karen Flores (Rene Russo). Late at night when Flores hears the TV playing downstairs she sends Zimm down to turn it off and he finds Palmer watching 'The Tonight Show' with David Letterman. Palmer delivers his reminder to Zimm about the casino debt and Zimm promises to pay. Palmer is a big film fan and engages Zimm in a conversation about his work eventually pitching him a story for a potential new film... which is a fictionalized version of his hunt for Devoe. Flores comes downstairs to find them talking over drinks and, less than happy with both, and throws them out.

    The film's action switches to the LA airport where gangster Bo Catlett (Delroy Lindo) is meeting a representative of a Columbian cartel, Yayo Portillo (Jacob Vargas) to buy a shipment of drugs. Catlett takes the drugs and gives Portillo the key to an airport locker where the $500,000 in cash is stowed. Portillo, suspecting a set up and that the locker is being watched by the Federal agents, does not go to the locker, but shows up at Catlett's mountainside house. Catlett shoots him and his body falls over the balcony down the mountainside. Catlett sends his bodyguard, Bear (James Gandolfini) a sometimes stunt man, to retrieve the key and hide the body.

    Meanwhile, Zimm tells Palmer about a movie he wants to produce, "Mr Lovejoy," which has what he thinks is an Oscar winning script. He can't produce it, however, because Catlett has already lent Zimm $150,000 to do a film called "Circus Freaks." Zimm can't return the money because he lost it at Vegas in attempt to gamble it up to $500,000, the amount he needs to buy the Lovejoy script from the late writer's wife Doris Saphron (Bette Midler). Palmer tells Zimm to let him handle the next meeting with Catlett and he will get Circus Freaks put off for a few months. Palmer will get the money from Devoe to finance Mr. Lovejoy.

    Zimm gets nervous in the meeting with Catlett and Catlett's tough subordinate Ronnie Wingate (Jon Gries). Zimm screws it up so that Catlett finds out about the valuable script and wants a piece of the production. He even offers to give Zimm $500,000 for the picture and suggests he send Palmer to get it from a locker at the airport.

    Palmer goes to the airport and senses a setup. He tests what is going on by seeming to open the locker with the money when actually he opens the locker next to it. He is grabbed by federal agents, but then released when they realize that they have made a mistake. Afterward, Bear confronts Palmer in the parking lot to get the key back, but is outmatched by Palmer who levels him with a few blows. As Bear recovers Palmer asks him about his stunt work and flatters him by knowing about the movies hes been in. Palmer mentions that he thinks Bear can do a lot better than working for Catlett.

    The key to making Mr. Lovejoy a success is to get star Martin Weir (Danny DeVito) to sign on. Flores is Weir's ex-wife and still has a good relationship with him. Flores starts to become romantically involved with Palmer and helps him get access to Weir. Palmer and Flores visit Weir at his Hollywood house where as it turns out Weir's much younger and current girlfriend is rock star Nicki (Renee Props) an old friend of Palmer's from Miami. Soon Palmer, who is familiar with Weir's work and flatters him, manages to talk him into signing on for the picture. Palmer also interests Weir in playing the fictional version of himself in the story he is developing.

    Palmer tracks down Devoe and takes $310,000 of the $500,000 leaving him with just his Vegas winnings. Devoe complains, but Palmer tells him if Bones had found him instead Bones would have taken all the money and killed him.

    Meanwhile, Bones has learned of the money Devoe has scammed from the airline. He comes to LA when Zimm foolishly contacts him and tries to get him to invest in his film. A meeting between the two doesn't go well and it ends up with Bones brutally beating Zimm up so that he has to go the hospital in a cast and head brace. At the same meeting Wingate appears and is shot by Bones, who then sets it up to make it look like Zimm killed Wingate in self defense.

    The fact that Yayo has disappeared along with $500,000 has brought Colombia drug lord Mr. Escobar (Miguel Sandoval) to L.A. with two goons. Though Catlett denies knowing what happened to Yayo or the money, it is clear that Escobar holds Catlett responsible giving him just a couple of days to find both of them or there will be fatal consequences. Desperate, Catlett confronts Palmer to get Devoe's money, kidnapping Flores and taking her to his house until the cash is delivered.

    Palmer arrives at the house to rescue Flores. Catlett plans to take the money and kill them both, but with Bear's help (Bear has secretly switched sides), Palmer turns the tables on Catlett and sends him flying over the balcony to his death. Something Catlett had planned for Palmer.

    Bones finally catches up with Palmer at his hotel room and demands Devoe's money. Finding the airport locker key in Palmer's coat, Bones assumes that Palmer has hid the money at the airport. When Bones goes to the airport and opens the locker we see the federal agents close around him...

    The scene suddenly switches to an airport set at a movie studio. A voice addresses Bones and when he turns around we see that the character is now portrayed by Harvey Keitel. Threatening him is Weir playing the fictional version of Palmer. Weir screws up the shot and as the movie company breaks for lunch we see that Penny Marshall is the director and Bear a technical consultant with Zimm producing and Palmer and Flores as executive producers. There is a long helicopter pull out shot from the studio and the credits roll.

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