REVIEW: GET SHORTY

 

CAST

John Travolta (The Punisher)
Gene Hackman (Superman)
Rene Russo (Thor)
Danny DeVito (Batman Returns)
Dennis Farina (Luck)
Delroy Lindo (Gone in 60 Seconds)
James Gandolfini (Killing Them Softly)
Jon Gries (Men In Black)
Miguel Sandoval (Medium)
Jack Conley (Angel)
Harvey Keitel (Reservoir Dogs)
Alex Rocco (The Simpsons)
Jaob Vargas (Traffc)
Penny Marshall (Laverne & Shirley)
Bette Midler (Hocus Pocus)

In Get Shorty, John Travolta plays Chili Palmer, a mobster who works out of Miami and is affiliated with a big time thug named Ray Bones (Dennis Farina). Ray is a violent man who doesn’t like to be messed with, and Chili takes care of business for him. Ray sends Chili out to Las Vegas to collect on a sizable debt owed to him, but once he’s there, a casino big wig talks Chili into rerouting over to Los Angeles to collect an even larger amount owed by a filmmaker named Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman). Harry is an eclectic man, who produces and directs low budget b-grade horror movies out of California. When Chili heads out that way and gets a taste for filmmaking industry, he figures he can use the skills he learned while working in the mafia to produce his own movies, with a little bit of help from Harry.get-shorty-travolta-russo

Soon Chili gets involved with Harry and his cohorts – Karen Flores (Rene Russo), a b-movie actress and Harry’s go to girl for all of his films; Bo Catlett (Delroy Lindo), Harry’s money man who gets all of his disposable income and investment capital from selling drugs; and Martin Weir (Danny DeVito), Karen’s ex-husband who happens to be a pretty recognizable star in Hollywood, something his insanely inflated ego is only all too happy to tell you about. Weir’s nickname happens to be Shorty.

While Chili and his new friends are out in LA making movies, Ray Bones is wondering what happened to him and so he heads out to California to check things out for himself. Chile begins to fall in love with Karen as they spend more time together, and a whole lot of people are going on about a locker at the Los Angeles airport that’s got a whole lot of money stored inside of it.

get-shorty

John Travolta  plays his role with just enough smugness to remind us he’s a hood, but at the same time as the movie goes along and he gets involved with Karen and starts to make his film, we find he’s not a totally unlikable guy – and he never loses his cool. Travolta delivers the dialogue perfectly, as does the rest of the cast, notably Hackman and DeVito who are both great in their supporting roles. Dennis Farino does an admirable job playing the heavy, and seeing James Gandolfini in a small role playing a bodyguard is fun as well.

The main reason to see the film t is for the fun and witty story, and solid performances.

REVIEW: TRAFFIC

CAST

Michael Douglas (Wall Street)
Amy Irving (Alias)
Benicio del Toro (Sin City)
Erika Christensen (Swimfan)
Topher Grace (That 70s Show)
James Brolin (The Amityville Horror)
Jacob Vargas (Get Shorty)
Albert Finney (The Bourne Legacy)
Catherine Zeta Jones (Entrapment)
Dennis Quaid (Jaws 3)
Clifton Collins Jr. (The Bad Pack)
Don Cheadle (Iron Man 2 & 3)
Luis Guzman (McBain)
Miguel Ferrer (Robocop)
Peter Riegert (The Mask)
Benjamin Bratt (Demolition Man)
Viola Davis (Suicide Squad)
Salma Hayek (Ugly Betty)
Emilio Rivera (Venom)
Michael O’Neill (Transformers)
Majandra Delfino (Roswell)
Rena Sofer (Heroes)
John Slattery (Iron Man 2)
Jack Conley (Angel)
Harsh Nayyar (Gandhi)

a Steven Soderbergh Traffic Michael Douglas DVD Review PDVD_004

Scripted by Stephen Gaghan, Traffic is adapted from the famous British miniseries Traffik and takes a hard look at the illegal drug trade from multiple perspectives. All sides of the issue are explored via a series of intersecting storylines. On the front lines, a Mexican cop (Benicio Del Toro) witnesses the rampant government corruption that facilitates the smuggling of drugs across the U.S. border. In the halls of American power, a politically ambitious judge (Michael Douglas) is picked as the new Drug Tsar and quickly runs into obstacles implementing new policies.

In fact, even the judge’s own daughter (Erika Christensen) and her privileged rich kid friends experiment with freebasing and begin the downward spiral of addiction. In the netherworld between these two extremes, a DEA agent (Don Cheadle) in California attempts to take down a drug running ring but finds the effort futile; even if he succeeds all he’s done is clear the way for new competition to move in. Meanwhile, a society wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) whose husband is indicted on trafficking charges is forced into taking over his smuggling racket to pay their debts and protect her family.

The movie has a huge cast of other recognizable faces (Dennis Quaid, Albert Finney, Luis Guzman, Amy Irving, and Miguel Ferrer among others), but it’s Del Toro who stands out in a star-making turn; he won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor but actually carries a big chunk of the movie and proves he can be an effective leading man. The story has an ambitious reach and a complicated structure. Soderbergh juggles all these elements with masterful control, maintaining a steady tone that emphasizes the tragedy of the situation without overstepping into preachiness, overwrought theatrics, or heavy-handed sermonizing. The movie asks many questions but is frank that it can deliver no answers. It takes no political stance either for or against our government’s policies other than to point out that they clearly aren’t working. The war on drugs is a self-generating, never-ending cycle of corruption, hypocrisy, and hopelessness with seemingly no possible solution.