John Travolta is a charismatic actor, and after watching Get Shorty, one has to wonder why he was down and out for a while. Here, he plays Chili Palmer, a smooth-talking fast-acting loan Collector from Miami, who has taken a liking to the movie capital of the world, LA. Being an avid fan, especially of B-movies, he hooks up with another producer, Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman), and begins to learn the ins and the outs of the movie business. Not surprisingly, he finds that the movie business is not too different from the loan sharking business.
The movie is self-referential. In the movie, Palmer pitches a script to Zimm that unfolds on the fly. The plot is somewhat convoluted and there are a few unnecessary loose ends, but the actors and the director do a decent job of getting it across. The main theme has to do with Palmer dealing with Bo (Delroy Lindo), a local gangster with an interest in Zimm's new play, Karen Flores (Rene Russo), who Palmer falls for, Martin Weir (Danny DeVito), an actor who is supposedly interested in playing Palmer in his self-referential script, and an assorted bunch of Hollywood sleazes and thugs.
On top of this, you also have the involvement of the Columbian drug cartel, Palmer's grudge-bearing "boss" Ray "Bones" Barbone (Dennis Farina), and the DEA. As I said, the plot is convoluted and at the end of it all you're left with an empty understanding of the whole story line, which is frustrating and satisfying at the same time.
The movie does have a lot of high points, and many of them are funny. The performances by the actors are superlative and Travolta pulls off the cheap gangster role as Chili Palmer very well. Hackman and DeVito, also imitating Palmer, do a great job getting their respective roles across. This is definitely one of the better comedies I've seen this year.