Out Of Sight
Director: Steven Soderbergh.
Screenplay: Scott Frank.
Starring: George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez, Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle, Steve Zahn, Albert Brooks, Catherine Keener, Isaiah Washington, Luis Guzman, Dennis Farina, Viola Davis, Nancy Allen, Paul Calderon, Keith Loneker, Mike Malone, Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson.
“If I see Glenn wearing his sunglasses I’m gonna step on ’em. I might not even take ’em off first”
The late Elmore Leonard had been writing crime and western novels as far back as the 1950’s and has had numerous adaptations of his work: Paul Newman in Hombre, Clint Eastwood in Joe Kidd and Charles Bronson in Mr. Majestyk are just some of the more familiar ones. However, around the mid 90’s there was somewhat of a reinvestment in his work. After the release of Quentin Tarantino’s hugely influential Pulp Fiction in 1994, crime became cool again and Elmore Leonard became the go-to guy for the material. John Travolta would follow-up Pulp with Barry Sonnenfeld’s humorous adaptation of Leonard’s Get Shorty and Tarantino himself adapted Rum Punch into Jackie Brown. There were other TV Movies like Gold Coast and Pronto, Paul Schrader’s misjudged Touch and the short lived TV series Maximum Bob. Steven Soderbergh then rounded them off with this stylish film that, arguably, handed George Clooney the first role that suited him as a fully fledged leading man. 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 David Holmes’ excellent score that evokes 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 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 gossiping stoner, Glenn Michaels. It’s the dialogue and interplay between all of these characters that’s one of the films major highlights and it provides 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 still yet to 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. Alongside Get Shorty and Jackie Brown this completes a quality (90’s) trilogy of the masterful Leonard’s work.Mark Walker
Trivia: Michael Keaton reprises his role as “Ray Nicolette” in a small cameo. He originally played him in Jackie Brown while Dennis Farina appeared in Get Shorty.