Out of Sight Reviews
It's got a good cast and a good setup. Unfortunately, 'Out of Sight' fails to live up to this, with a movie that just didn't grab my attention at all. Not one of Soderbergh's best, unfortunately.
"Out of Sight," one of the finest comedy thrillers in a decade full of them, never stops the crime train for a minute and never allows for us to let our guards down. It is a film that rides high on the fumes of witty exchanges and effortless self-regard, just three-dimensional enough to get away with being so damn artificially snappy and just artificial enough to three-dimensionalize the fact that this is a movie, just one that happens to be remarkably and irrepressibly engaging.
It is also widely touted as the role that made George Clooney a star and got him thrown into the typecast hell of playing charming, devil-may-care sinners. In "Out of Sight," he portrays Jack Foley, a bank robber so confident that the majority of his career has gone without gun use - he can easily convince a teller of a threat without actually having to prove himself. As the film opens, he's pulling yet another quick job (he's lost count) that travels down the wrong path after his car refuses to start. He's escaped jail time for years, with past encounters lasting long and throbbing with emptiness. This time, he refuses to give up. So he cooks up an escape plan that, more or less, works.
But as his right-hand man, Buddy (Ving Rhames), waits outside the prison grounds for his partner-in-grime to jump out of a clichéd underground tunnel, U.S. Marshal Karen Sisco (Jennifer Lopez) is also passing the time in her car; and though she has a shotgun in hand, her attempts to thwart Jack and Buddy mid-escape fail. She is kidnapped, thrown into the trunk of her own car with Jack, with Buddy driving away into the night.
But something strange happens: Jack and Karen find themselves liking each other, not in the way pals do but in the manner middle-schoolers dream of. Their trunk conversations consists not of threats and faux pas but of easygoing small-talk (Faye Dunaway, for instance, is a topic). It's a shame that she sides with the law and he smirks at it; then maybe they'd have something.
Yet even after escape ensues and separation becomes reality, the two are still fascinated by one another, chance encounters fueling their flirtations as Jack eventually turns toward another job with Karen hot on his trail, in the throes of investigation but also of sexual interest. At its heart, "Out of Sight" is a caper - but it's more fascinating when focused on the cat-and-mouse romance between its sexy leads, who have such crackling repartee that a mere glance emits a spark.
Despite the linkage that almost immediately connects the two before first viewing, I was not reminded of "Pulp Fiction" while watching "Out of Sight" but of "Jackie Brown." This is the second time I've watched the film (the first being three summers ago), and more apparent to me is Steven Soderbergh's tight handling of a screenplay with a lot of characters, subplots, and misunderstandings. Like Tarantino, he doesn't figure a drawn-out scene regarding character quirks is such a bad thing - it provides dimension that ultimately makes the movie funnier. As we get to know the people involved, the more they seem like human beings (just catered with awesome dialogue) who commit crime for a living only because there isn't anything else to do. But then there's Lopez as the good guy, who bears noticeable self-possession that is thunderously carnal but also subtly infuriating - why doesn't she make more movies like this? Clearly, she can hold her own next to big names.
By its end, "Out of Sight" only slightly flies of the rails and loses some of its steam, but it hardly undoes the vibrancy seen previously. This is a movie that sees dialogue as a virtue, characters as people and not objects. I am in awe of its intelligence, the way it so whole-heartedly refuses to commit to genre norms. It takes familiar characteristics and renews them, freshly and unpredictably.
Jack Foley (George Clooney) is a career bank robber that's done his fair share of jail time. After a recent breakout, he heads for Detroit to pull off his final job by relieving tycoon Richard Ripley (Albert Brooks) of his uncut diamond stash. However, Foley has to contend with other ex-cons with the same idea while evading the law and his infatuation with US Marshall Karen Sisco (Jennifer Lopez).
Opening with the most remarkably cool and composed bank robbery you're ever likely to see, it's clear from the offset that Soderbergh and Clooney are on very fine form. The mood is also helped by an excellent score by David Holmes that taps into a 70's caper vibe while Soderbergh employs a whole host of stylistic, directorial flourishes; he cleverly plays with the time frame throughout the narrative with complex use of flashbacks and freeze frames and puts a fresh spin on film noir.
Anyone familiar with Leonard's novels will be fully aware of his colourful characters and sharp, snappy dialogue. In bringing them to the screen, Soderbergh assembles a rich gallery of performers; despite Leonard envisioning Jack Nicholson or Sean Connery as Jack Foley when he sold the film rights of his novel, it's a role that fits Clooney like a glove. He brings the requisite charm and charisma and it remains one of his most perfectly suited roles to this day. He's accompanied by a stellar supporting cast too; Jennifer Lopez is not normally someone I'd rate very highly but she delivers some strong work as the doggedly determined Federal Marshall and shares great chemistry with Clooney. Ving Rhames brings his usual reliability as Foley's right hand man, Buddy Bragg while Steve Zahn adds welcome comic relief as stoner, Glenn Michaels. It's the dialogue and interplay between all of these characters that's one of the films major highlights and it provide numerous light, entertaining moments. However, these moments are balanced out with a well judged element of danger. For the most part, the personalities seem flawed and comical but Don Cheadle's chillingly psychotic Snoopy Miller, in particular, is a sobering reminder of what's at stake and what some of these career criminals are capable of.
Despite the story predominantly taking place amongst unsavoury criminals, you could say that this is as much as a romantic drama as it is a crime drama and Soderbergh handles them both (and the comedy elements) with a deftness. The non-linear approach demands a certain concentration as it zips back and forth while teasingly bringing everything together. When you talk about the post-modern cool of 90's crime movies then this is certainly worthy of inclusion.
Crime may be the angle of it's characters but the real crime was this being overlooked upon it's release. It didn't do well at the box-office and many have yet to still uncover this gem.
Having been well versed in the work of Elmore Leonard over the years, I have to say that Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Frank do an exemplary job here. Adaptations of Leonard's work have rarely been better.