A gangster is looking to get away from crooked deals and double-crossing people but ends up in the movie business anyway in this comic crime story. Chili Palmer (John Travolta) is a Miami-based loan collector for the mob trying to collect a gambling debt.
His assignment takes him to Hollywood to collect money from Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman), a mildly sleazy producer of low-budget horror movies. Although Chili intends to hurt Harry if necessary, he takes a certain liking to him and an even keener interest in Karen (Rene Russo), Harry's girlfriend, whom Chili recognizes from Harry's grade-B monster epics.
It seems Harry has a script that he feels is Academy Award material, and he could get the project off the ground if he could get the right actor for the lead -- say, the well-respected but egocentric (and diminutive) Martin Weir (Danny DeVito).
Chili thinks he has a feel for the movie business and decides to see what he can do to persuade Weir to get behind the project. Chili soon finds himself hip deep in the film industry, which at least puts him in contact with a higher grade of scumbags than he's used to.
But Chili isn't the only criminal Harry's been dealing with; he's been obtaining financing from Bo Catlett (Delroy Lindo), a drug dealer with a highly uncertain temperament.
An intelligently constructed crime story and a hilarious look at the absurdities of the film business, Get Shorty was based on the novel of the same name by Elmore Leonard; Leonard based Chili on a real-life former gangster of his acquaintance, though Chili's model never worked in Hollywood.