Get Shorty: Season 1 Review

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by Casimir Harlow Jun 8, 2018 at 6:21 AM

  • Movies review


    Get Shorty: Season 1 Review

    Elmore Leonard's Get Shorty gets reinvented for the small screen in this darkly witty crime drama that's a lot better than you might expect.

    The late, great crime writer Elmore Leonard was behind the novels that eventually formed the basis of some great films like Steven Soderbergh's Out of Sight and Tarantino's Jackie Brown, as well as the superb modern-day Western TV series Justified.

    Known for sharp dialogue and colourful, often super-cool characters that infuse his criminal universes, Leonard's novel of the same name was adapted by Barry Sonnenfeld for the 1995 crime comedy Get Shorty, which helped cement John Travolta's post-Pulp Fiction comeback, pitching him as a smooth mob enforcer who gets involved with Gene Hackman's slimy Hollywood producer.

    It's a great little movie, working wonderfully as crime drama, Hollywood satire or just outright comedy, and featuring some tremendous performances, making the idea of a TV series remake somewhat questionable.

    Reinventing movies as TV shows is nothing new, but it's become quite a big thing at the moment, and has actually yielded some decent results, from the least expected places - Fargo's completed three excellent seasons, and nobody could have expected Lethal Weapon would actually turn out so well, with the upcoming Jack Ryan looking to erase the unpleasant taste that the Chris Pine film left.

    An enjoyable little crime drama.

    This new 10-episode Get Shorty TV series from Epix (which has already been renewed for a second season) is thankfully one of these better adaptations. It's an enjoyable little crime drama, laced with often incidental witty undertones, plenty of satire and an occasionally offbeat vibe that's not a million miles away from Fargo.

    Whilst trading in the same plot beats as the film and the novel it was based on, the show smartly deviates wherever possible, reinventing the lead character, shifting the mob setting slightly, and giving the series a more grounded feel that's arguably much more suited to both modern sensibilities and also modern satirical representations of Hollywood, trading in seedy Nevada casino enforcers and low budget movie productions designed to be pre-sold to overseas markets.

    The story follows Nevada gang enforcer Miles Daly, who wants to get out of the crime business so he can salvage his marriage and better bring up his teen daughter, happening across a script for a period drama which he sees as his way out. Pitching it to his crime boss as a way to launder money, he gets her to invest in the project, enlisting the help of failing producer Rick Moreweather to put together something halfway decent and guarantee a profit, something Rick doesn't realise that his very life is depending on.

    Get Shorty
    As much as this was something of an unexpected project to be turned into a TV series, it's completely left-field to cast Irish comedian Chris O'Dowd (known for Bridesmaids, This is 40 and, on this side of the pond, the Channel 4 comedy series, The IT crowd) as the lead Miles Daly, the equivalent role to John Travolta's Chili Palmer.

    O'Dowd, for some, could easily be regarded by some as a curse on any serious film (and perhaps even some comedies), with straight roles in Molly's Game and, in particular, the already pretty awful Cloverfield Paradox, where his particular style of acting didn't necessarily lend itself to the more dramatic aspects of the material.

    Here he's not quite a revelation, but pretty damn close. Not even trying to walk in the footsteps of Travolta, O'Dowd very much plays his own character, largely avoiding overt comedy in favour of a more gritty, seedy character who is a little bit down on his luck - albeit personally - understated in that he's disarmingly tough, and really quite good at smoothly persuading people even if not in the conventionally charming way that you might, for example, have expected from Travolta's counterpart. O'Dowd's enforcer, believe it or not, is a much darker piece of work.

    A worthy reboot adaptation, reinventing the well-regarded film and book for modern streaming sensibilities with a fresh new style.

    Everybody Loves Raymond star Ray Romano, also famous for his vocal talents in the Ice Age series, and also more commonly associated with comedies, has enjoyed arguably more success with his more serious - but no less neurotic - performances in films like the enjoyable Amazon-produced The Big Sick, and the Scorsese-produced TV series Vinyl (he's also in Scorsese's upcoming Netflix gangster epic, The Irishman, alongside the likes of De Niro and Pacino).

    Here he's perfectly cast in the role of the low rent, failing producer, playing it not wholly unlike Gene Hackman's take on the equivalent part, but again bringing a more down to earth, normalised feel to the role.

    Packed with interesting and colourful supporting characters, Get Shorty doesn't have the razor-sharp wit you'd normally associate with Elmore Leonard but, unlike on the fabulous Justified, we no longer have Leonard around to help consult on it, relying instead on creator and screenwriter Davey Holmes (whose background includes the more dramatic shows, In Treatment and Damages) to deliver the goods. Holmes is credited with writing over half of Season 1, and he's certainly talented, but his humour is perhaps more slight than you might have hoped for from this adaptation.

    Nonetheless this is a relatively minor quibble in a smartly-made and very engaging little crime drama that gets its hooks into you quite easily, leaving you happily gobbling up episodes in true binge style (all 10 are now available through Sky Atlantic / NowTV), enjoying the long-form story arc which clearly plays out across the entire season - and perhaps even into season 2.

    Violent and very adult, darkly and subtly witty, well-acted and compellingly clever, Get Shorty is a worthy reboot adaptation, reinventing the already well-regarded film and source book for modern streaming sensibilities with a fresh new gritty style.

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