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Review: For ‘Get Shorty,’ an Amusing Epix Makeover

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Ray Romano, left, and Chris O’Dowd in Epix’s new series “Get Shorty.”

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Epix

A billboard along the highway from Los Angeles to Las Vegas reads, “The Rush Before the Reward.” I didn’t catch what it was advertising when I passed it the other day, but I did wonder if Miles Daly, when he sees it, recognizes its relevance to his predicament.

Miles (Chris O’Dowd), the central character in the likable new Epix take on “Get Shorty,” is a minor Nevada mobster who, when a collection assignment takes him to Los Angeles, is bitten by the movie bug. He sees the reward — a legitimate career; a chance to repair his fractured home life — but he’s in the grip of the rush, the addiction to the idea of being in the movie business.

The series, which begins on Sunday, takes as its jumping-off point the same book that was the basis for the 1995 movie starring John Travolta and Gene Hackman. But be advised that a title card here reads, “Based in part on the novel by Elmore Leonard,” and “in part” really ought to be highlighted somehow. This is a different story with different and reimagined characters; a point-by-point comparison of film and TV show, or TV show and novel, is even more irrelevant for “Get Shorty” than it usually is for such adaptations.

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What matters is that the overall concept and the tone are very much in the spirit of the earlier incarnations. Mr. Leonard, who died in 2013, would surely be pleased with how Davey Holmes, the show’s creator, has appropriated signature Leonardesque touches — deadpan humor; casually deployed violence; incongruous eloquence.

“Do you find this job meaningful?” Miles asks Louis (Sean Bridgers), his sidekick in murder and the odd jobs required of enforcers. “Fulfilling, spiritually?”

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