Thursday, December 06, 2007


I'm not sure if it is fair to call 1998's Out of Sight an 'overlooked' film, but it was not seen by too many back when it played in the theatres despite it being one of the great examples of pure movie entertainment in the 1990s. It capped off a superior run of 3 Elmore Leonard adaptations over 3 years (The other two being Get Shorty and Jackie Brown), catapulted the career of George Clooney from TV's ER to A-List Superstar (somehow even overcoming the putrid wreak of his turn as Batman) and not only revived the stalling career of director Steven Soderbergh , but launched his glossy high-budget phase of quality adult entertainment. There are some who jokingly refer to Out of Sight as Oceans 10. This is largely due to George Clooney exuding such easy confidence and grace under fire (Clooney remains one of the few of a rare breed of true movie stars), but also the fluid visual style that Soderbergh brings to this picture. A washed out orangey Miami, and cool blue-gray Detroit blanketed in snow are offset by warm low-lit interiors that ooze sexy. This is combined with hand-held intimate camera work that give the illusion that you are peaking in on the lives of these cops and robbers. This was before the hand-held approach was co-opted for driving action pictures like The Bourne franchise and horror films like 28 Weeks Later.

The story involves a heist, a romance and a prison break. But really it's all there to set up an opposites attraction relationship between two of the most unlikely characters. A snippet of dialogue says it best, "It's like seeing someone for the first time, and you look at each other for a few seconds, and there's this kind of recognition like you both know something. Next moment the person's gone, and it's too late to do anything about it."

Here are three reasons to sit back and enjoy a movie like this again and again. The rewatch value for this is higher than any of Soderbergh's other films (including the equally superb The Limey):

1. Chemistry. That elusive thing that makes actors sizzle or fizzle on screen. There is a magnetism between George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez that is rare even when these type of of films were at their heyday in the 1950s and 1960s. What's more, this may just be the only good performance the world will ever see from Jennifer Lopez. She gives a perfect blend of on screen sexiness, competence, vulnerability and toughness without a trace of the tabloid trash that would bury her over the next decade.

2. The gigantic supporting cast of players. Great character actors are coming out of the woodwork here, every scene has actors that have gone on to bigger and better things since this film. Dennis Farina turns in a fabulous performance as Lopez's Dad, a man who buys her a hand gun for her birthday, yet is fiercely protective of her feelings. The grilling he gives her boyfriend (a brilliant crossover FBI agent character (from Jackie Brown) played by Michael Keaton is a great scene. Then there is the wonderful Steve Zahn as a fumbling small time criminal in way over his head. Catherine Keener and Luis Guzmán have a knock out little scene where even while being arrested forcefully, Guzmán wants to know the secret of the saw-the-lady-in-half magic trick. Albert Brooks gives his best performance in years and Ving Rhames plays the dependable side-kick to Clooney's bank robber in a role than could not be further from Pulp Fiction's Marsellus Wallace.

3. Possibly the single best sex scene ever filmed in the history of cinema. He's a bank robber, she's a US Marshall. Fantasy and desire and the danger of the whole thing cause them to flirt with the idea of a sexual time-out. Scenes of flirtation in a bar are intercut with foreplay in hotel room while the camera in in closeup with little gestures and body language. Snow falls outside a warmly lit hotel room. Structurally this scene is incredibly ambitious (apparently it owes an inspiration to the nearly pornographic scene in Don't Look Now, a dark and moody thriller that couldn't be further from this, and here the scene is glossy and slick and even tasteful, yet hardly gratuitous (a claim often made in Don't Look Now)). Why would you want a sex scene tasteful and glossy? Well, you'll understand after you see this scene just what can be done with the right editing rhythm, lighting and angles. It's a knock out.

I'll close with this excellent line of dialogue from the film. The films psychotic criminal (played to the nines by Don Cheadle) says this at one point to rattle George Clooney: "You know, in a situation like this, there's a high potentiality for the common motherfucker to bitch out. " There isn't anything common about Out of Sight. It's all cool under fire.


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