Miami loan shark Chili Palmer (Travolta) follows a bad debt from one coast to the other, but he feels right at home when he touches down in LA. Instead of putting the squeeze on schlock movie-maker Harry Zimm (Hackman), Chili pitches his own story concept, agrees to back-off Harry's most impatient investor, ruthless drugs kingpin Bo Catlett (Lindo), and casually breaks into showbiz. Retired scream queen Karen Flores (Russo) provides an intro to her ex, diminutive Hollywood superstar Martin Weir (DeVito), and soon the deal is taking shape: money, murder and mayhem in Lalaland. By sticking closely to Elmore Leonard's novel (often word for word), director Sonnenfeld and screenwriter Scott Frank have plugged straight into the king of crime's most underrated attribute: the comedy of manners. Leonard's flashy characters are always trying on personalities for size, feeling each other out with flip remarks and attitude - everybody's looking for a piece of the action, and the movie fair fizzes with memorable double-talk and backchat. As satire, it's pretty broad, and so throwaway it almost cancels itself out, but the film-makers never overplay their hand: it's a breezy, smoothly sophisticated affair, capitalising on Travolta's low-key charisma. Snappily scored and edited - everything clicks.
Cast and crew