Epix' "Get Shorty": A Merry Mix of Movies, Menace and Murder

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Calling Get Shorty -- Epix’s new crime comedy based Elmore Leonard’s novel and subsequent film of the same name – a “hit” would be a gross understatement.  Its debut season has only just begun and it has already been given the green light for a sophomore run. Series creator, executive producer, and writer Davey Holmes (Shameless, Awake) has perfectly captured the comedic dark tone of its source material in this adaptation, and the performance of Chris O’Dowd (pictured at top, left) as Miles Daly, the no-nonsense muscle for a Latina crime boss, is nothing less than perfect.  This show feels like it should be on HBO.  It’s got emotional depth, a likeable protagonist, a seedy underworld worth exploring and a soundtrack that’s occasionally reminiscent of Antonio Sánchez’s solo jazz percussion performances from the movie Birdman.  Epix seems to have outdone itself with the latest addition to their list of scripted originals, which is good, because like the show’s tagline says, “You’re only as good as your next hit.”

Miles and his best friend Louis (Sean Bridgers) are fixers for a crooked non-Vegas casino owner named Amara (Lidia Porto) and her punk nephew Yago (Goya Robles).  After Yago sends the pair to L.A. to collect on a debt from a would-be screenwriter, they find themselves in possession of a blood and brains-covered movie script that means nothing to Louis, but absolutely everything to Miles.  He sees it as a means to a very important personal end -- it’s a way for him to legitimize himself professionally in the eyes of his estranged wife so that they may reconnect for the sake of their 12-year-old daughter.  What follows is a delightfully dark series of events that show how the movie business and the murder business aren’t so different from each other.

Every character in this dry humor-filled dramedy seems to be heavily motivated by fear.  Miles fears he’ll lose the chance to once again be husband and father in his family.  His wife Katie (Lucy Walters), from whom he’s separated, fears the dangerous company he keeps as a result of his disagreeable vocation.  B-movie producer Rick Moreweather (Ray Romano, top right) fears his many financial woes.  Yago is insecure as all hell and fears seeming weak and/or losing Amara’s approval. And Amara?  She doesn’t seem to have any fears at all, yet everyone fears her.  I mean, only a few minutes into the pilot Amara has a man’s tongue cut out. Sure, damn near everyone in this series shows some level of instability at one point or another, but Amara makes it clear that she’s not to be f*cked with.

The driving force behind Get Shorty’s appeal is Chris O’Dowd’s affinity for being the quick-witted straight man, and the comedic way he deals with the ironic nature of his life.  O’Dowd has come a long way from his nice guy in Bridesmaids and he handles it well.  As far as irony goes, Miles values the quality films of old, but pursues a working relationship with a producer who specializes in pumping out straight-to-DVD dreck.  He resents the illegal nature of his work because of the discord it brings to his personal life, yet the very skills he honed as a criminal regularly help him achieve his Hollywood goals.  He wants nothing more than to escape Amara’s reach and live a more commonly accepted, respectable life for his daughter’s sake, but on some level he’s got to know that his efforts are probably pointless.  Amara doesn’t let anyone walk away from her, and Miles should know that, as he’s usually the one burying the bodies.

Ray Romano’s performance is excellent as well, as I can’t imagine anyone else nailing the quiet, hang-dog desperation of the Rick Morehouse character as convincingly (or in as entertaining a fashion) as he does.  He knows very little about Miles’s world and the kind of people he deals with.  The same can be said for Miles in regards to his knowledge (or lack thereof) of how things really work in the movie biz.  In this way, Rick and Miles should be chaperoning one another through the wilderness of their respective environments, but both are just stubborn enough to make things a little harder than they have to be for each other.

However, the best rapport depicted is the one between Miles and Louis.  Louis is the naysayer of the two, and he has no problem telling Miles exactly how stupid he thinks some of his ideas are.  He does fear Amara just a teeny bit more than Miles does, but no matter what, he’s always got Miles’ back.  Their chemistry, back-and-forths and implied history add an extra layer of authenticity to the overall scheme.

Get Shorty expects nothing of its viewers besides an hour of their time, one at a time.  The book and film iterations are important, but are definitely not integral to one’s enjoyment of Davey Holmes’s television version.  If “you’re only as good as your next hit” then Epix is doing alright indeed.  Get Shorty is gritty and gutsy, and with every episode it gets harder and harder to stay away.

Get Shorty is telecast Sunday at 10 p.m. on Epix.

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