Aug/Sep 1998 Film and Cinema

Out of Sight

reviewed by Mark Leeper

Capsule: An escaped bank robber heads for a
big score while being chased by a female federal
marshal, each of whom really wants to know the
other better. Hunter and quarry are romantically
entangled, but are they going to let romanticism
get in the way of their professional interests?
Steven Soderbergh balances light and dark elements
of this sometimes comic, sometimes violent
adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel.
Rating: 6 (0 to 10), high +1 (-4 to +4)


This is the season for "good guy" bank robbers. Earlier this year we had The Newton Boys about the most successful bank robbers in American history, but who remained nice guys through it all. Perhaps inspired by them is Jack Foley (George Clooney) who has robbed more than 200 banks without anyone ever being hurt. That record is almost believable as the film opens with Foley using his charm and a clever plot to rob one more bank. This time his luck is against him and he is caught and thrown into prison. Nor do the breaks come his way when he tries to escape from prison. Just as he has tunneled out, gun-loving federal marshal Karen Sisco (Jennifer Lopez) is there by chance. Foley and company have to take shotgun from her and kidnap her, throwing her in the same trunk in which Foley will hide. Even under the circumstances there is chemistry between them, and even after she escapes, each continues to think about the other. This could be bad for either of them since professionally they are opponents.

George Clooney is sort of a bland actor who floats along on his good looks. I have yet to see him show anything akin to emotional intensity in a role. And because his characters are not stressed, we never see what they are made of. That gives him a nice sturdy screen persona, but it is not going to win him any acting awards. Clooney glides through Jack Foley effortlessly and leaving behind little memorable but his smile. Jennifer Lopez's Karen Sisco is only a little more interesting. She is more of a prime mover in the story, but as is much to frequently the case in 90s popular films, the main characters more have to look good than to create memorable characters. More interesting roles went to Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle, Albert Brooks, and especially Dennis Farina. Watch for two major actors who have cameo roles.

Scott Frank's screenplay is deliberately non-linear and a little confusing, jumping without warning into or out of flashbacks. Perhaps this is even a good thing since the story itself is fairly straightforward. The solution to the puzzle may be simple, but there is enough spin on the ball when the story is told to make the viewer feel good when the pieces fit together. When the film starts we have several seemingly disconnected strands of plot with different characters, but the strands are quickly brought together. Some of the photographic touches are a little obvious. Scenes that take place under the warm Florida sun are shot with bright colors, but scenes that take place in Detroit are shot mostly with a blue filter to give them a sort of run-down look. The dialog is humorous, but a little more down-to-earth than Quentin Tarantino might offer. But then Elmore Leonard has his own strange touch when it come to dialog. There is little actual sex in the film that the audience sees—two characters undress in front of each other, but we see little we could not see on the beach. The conclusion of the film, on the other hand, is fairly gory and we do see the blood.

Out of Sight is not one of the great crime films, but it is entertainment with a little challenge to the audience. It does not push the outside of the envelope, but it gets its job done. I give it a 6 on the 0 to 10 scale and a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale.


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