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Out of Sight (1998)

June 8, 2010

9/10 Smooth Criminals

Wildly under-appreciated and continues to stand as the best thing Jennifer Lopez has ever done for this world. Yup, even better than On the 6. Crazy, I know.

Out of Sight is about an habitual bank robber who gets locked up after a botched job, breaks out soon after and manages to fall for the US Marshall he temporarily kidnaps along the way. And wouldn’t ya know it, she falls for him too, and so begins this romantic game of cops and robbers as he tries to pull off the biggest heist of his life and get the one girl he can’t have without getting sent upstate in the process.

I don’t really know what general vibe towards this movie is nowadays, but since it was a box office flop back in ’98 and I feel like I’m always the guy recommending this to everyone instead of the guy getting in conversations about how awesome it is, I’m thinking that not enough people are on the bandwagon. The truth is, everything about that last sentence is a damn shame and I’m at a loss as to why that is.
See, boys and girls, this is the kind of movie that doesn’t get made anymore because, alas, movies haven’t really been this cool since ’70s. On the one hand, it’s a perfect storm of casting, directing and writing, but the real beauty of it all is that it doesn’t have to try to be cool, it just is, and a lot of that is ’cause Elmore Leonard is a guy who knows a thing or two about the subject and screenwriter Scott Frank did a bang-up job of making that quality apparent.

If the name’s not ringing a bell, Leonard’s the guy who wrote the source material for 3:10 to Yuma, Get Shorty and Jackie Brown (a.k.a. Rum Punch for all you bookworms in the room) among a crap load of other badass crime novels and Westerns from back in the day, many of which seem to have gotten some shitty screen adaptations. He’s all about slick characters with suspect professions who use a whole lot of brains and just a smidge of muscle to back up their sharp tongues that they’ve obviously been honing for years. Leonard’s a smart writer and he’s a goddamn genius when it comes to picking those choice few words for his characters to get their points across.

All his stories seem to be on the same page in this regard, but then there’s Out of Sight, and Out of Sight is in a league of its own. It also has one of the best accidental deaths in movie history, and while I know that’s not much of a selling point for those who haven’t seen it, it’s an easy scene to remember.

It’s directed by Steven Soderbergh, it was his first major step outside of the indie world and I’m sure that directors go to sleep praying each night that their first mainstream effort could be as good as thisl. Even though I haven’t reviewed a whole lot of Steve’s movies so far, hopefully we’re all in agreement that the dude is no joke, so keep going with that. The thing he does best here – and there’s a lot of things to choose from – is that he makes it retro. It looks he grabbed a couple thirty-year-old cameras from his mother’s attic, booked Miles Davis and Isaac Hayes to lay down some tracks, started from there and began shooting. The script is so effing cool to begin with, but big props to Steve for matching it in spades.

And the all-star cast is nothing short of lightning in a bottle.

For all of ya’s who don’t get the hype about George Clooney, check him out as Jack Foley, trust me, you’ll get it. The guy makes it look easy, he’s hard to take your eyes off of (and I’m not talking about the obvious reasons) and he seems to have a blast doing it. The man gets it done. And strangely enough, Jennifer Lopez of all people is just as good as Karen Sisco, the federale with a weak spot for bad boys. Some of the scenes they share together, whether it’s wedged in the trunk of a getaway car talking about how Peter Finch wasn’t gonna “take any more of your shit!” or as they reconnect for a night in a hotel lobby to see how things would have worked out if they’d met under different circumstances, are outright phenomenal. Simple as that, hard to ignore.

And then you’ve got Don Cheadle as the meanest asshole thug on the block trying to beat Foley to the punch, the mighty Ving Rhames as Foley’s right-hand con man, Steve Zahn as Foley’s idiot getaway driver (Why doesn’t that guy get more roles? Steve Zahn is so damn good), Dennis Farina as J.Lo’s dad (just got with it), a Michael Keaton cameo, a Sam Jackson cameo and a great turn by Luis Guzman as a gay convict who’s obsessed with magic tricks. Just another example of why this movie shouldn’t have flopped.

Seriously, what the hell else came out that weekend? Is there any way to find that out? Geez.

But look, Out of Sight is just that. It’s why Steven Soderbergh’s the man, it’s why Elmore Leonard’s the man, it’s why George Clooney’s the man, and it’s why there’s still a glimmer of hope for Jennifer Lopez and the depressing state of her sellout career. This is one of those rare movies that I’m gonna go ahead and recommend to anyone and everyone reading this because twelve-plus years is far too long a wait for this to recognized as the modern classic that it most definitely is.

It’s one of Steve’s best, gang, right up there with Traffic.

31 Comments leave one →
  1. June 8, 2010 12:08 am

    Here ya go, man.

    Shake your fist at Dr. Doolittle.

    • June 8, 2010 10:05 am

      Good lord, I thought it would be bad but I apparently had no idea. Fuck that noise.

      • June 8, 2010 8:40 pm

        The next weekend had Armageddon and the week after had Lethal Weapon 4, so it didn’t have a chance at the box office. Clooney wasn’t the big movie star then, but I do remember a ton of great critical press about it.

        By far one of the best Elmore Leonard adaptations. It really captures the style of his books that a lot of the filmed versions lack.

  2. June 8, 2010 12:15 am

    I really love the fact that Michael Keaton got to reprise the role of Ray Nicolette. Yeah this one needs a revisit…

    p.s. this has got to be the perfect date movie

    • June 8, 2010 10:05 am

      Haha, he’s great as Nicolette with the FBI shirt.

      “Do you have another one of those that says ‘UNDERCOVER’ on it?”


  3. June 8, 2010 12:18 am

    If anything actually deserved a sequel…

  4. June 8, 2010 12:34 am

    Totally agree Aiden. Such a great movie and it seems like a lot of people have never even heard of it. Overall it’s extremely well written and the chemistry between Clooney and Lopez is perfect. Just the fact that Jennifer Lopez is in this movie and it doesn’t completely suck makes this a historical film everyone should see.

  5. June 8, 2010 7:01 am

    Haven’t seen this in awhile, but I remember when I did, I freakin loved it! Nice Review man!

  6. June 8, 2010 9:08 am

    I’ve been ringing the bell for this movie for 12 years as well. God, I love it, and bless you for using the real poster for this post and not the shitty one they concocted for the DVD release. Even the poster is damned cool (and probably my all-time favorite).

    There’s nothing wrong with this movie. The cast, the director, the soundtrack, the writing, the look – it’s the complete package.

    • June 8, 2010 10:07 am

      What a badass poster, right? That other one was doctored to all hell. Lame.

      Agree with you 100%. Keep ringin that bell, homey.

  7. June 8, 2010 11:29 am

    Ugg. I despise this movie with a vengeance. I suppose if you are just looking for entertainment, it’s an amusing film, but I found all the character’s behaviors to be irrational, implausible and silly. The black gangsters in particular came off as offensively stupid to me, almost to the point of being racist.

    Maybe I just hate fun or something, but I didn’t like anything about this film.

  8. June 8, 2010 2:21 pm

    Scott Frank’s solo effort The Lookout was good as well.

    • June 8, 2010 2:26 pm

      Yeah, The Lookout *was* good, another movie no one saw.

      • June 8, 2010 2:32 pm

        I seen it, too. Not great in my book, but certainly worth a watch, for JGL if nothing else. Nice supporting turn by Jeff Daniels, too.

      • June 8, 2010 2:35 pm

        One thing I vividly remember about that movie was a conversation between a blind Jeff Daniels and a loan officer in regards to opening up his own restaurant.

        JD: “Come on, what’s your name, we’ll name a sandwich after you.” LO: “Reuben.” JD: “What’s your middle name?” That one got me going.

  9. June 8, 2010 3:15 pm

    “Wildly under-appreciated and continues to stand as the best thing Jennifer Lopez has ever done for this world. ”

    Does that include Ben Affleck?

    Oh, and what about Selena?

    Oh yeah, and she was a fly girl on in living color.

    • June 8, 2010 3:18 pm

      No, no and no.

    • June 8, 2010 3:27 pm

      Selena was an ultra-glorifying, misplaced TV movie.

      • June 8, 2010 3:29 pm

        My girlfriend is gonna be pissed when she reads that.

      • June 8, 2010 3:35 pm

        …..and yet, i had to endure that damn album throughout high school because chicks didn’t want to get down with a guy that didn’t like Selena.

      • June 8, 2010 3:42 pm

        You, sir, are a trooper.

  10. June 8, 2010 3:20 pm

    man that poster is terrible
    i really liked this the first time i saw it but i watched it again recently and it just didnt hold up as well as it should have
    your 9 is very generous
    Clooney is gorgeous though – this is the movie to send into space to show aliens how good-looking one male earthling can be

  11. June 8, 2010 6:36 pm

    Tremendous film. I applaud your taste again. Soderbergh knew to leave Elmore Leonard’s dialogue well alone and to let the natural warmth of Clooney shine through. That he managed to get a good performance out of Lopez – a feat only equalled by Oliver Stone in U-Turn – just added to it.

    I love Elmore Leonard’s writing with a passion; the transfer to screen often doesn’t work, though, but this is one of those rare exceptions.

  12. June 9, 2010 9:57 am

    One of my all time favorites, and a movie we were discussing at the most recent Toronto movie blogger pub night.

    I think it was just overmatched at the box office, and films like this that come out in the summertime continue to get clobbered. It was just too damned hard to get people’s attention away from the GODZILLA’s and ARMAGEDDON’s then (or the IRON MAN’s and TRANSFORMER’s now).

    But back to OUT OF SIGHT…

    This movie is just so. damned. cool. Totally agree that it’s the best thing Lopez has ever done, and her chemistry with Clooney is fantastic. As for the supporting cast, don’t forget about Viola Davis as Moselle and Isaiah Washington as Kenneth (“You wanna tustle?”) in that great scene when Karen Sisco first gets to Detroit.

    “He’s a protege of mine. Got him ranked thirty-two in the federal prison (boxing) system”
    “That’s right.”
    “Out of what? Twenty??”

    Effin’ LOVE IT!!!

    Great post on a great flick – Think I’m gonna have to re-watch this tonight.

  13. June 13, 2010 11:53 am

    That IS one bad-ass poster. Like something you’d wanna hang on yer wall and shit to show people you one cool dude.

    All this talk of the film makes me want to go rewatch it. It’s been years, but I remember really diggin’ it, and I had been on an Elmore Leonard kick at the time and recall thinkin’ this was the tops.

    Totally agree with whoever said Lopez was also very good in U-Turn (and smokin’ hot). She was also good in the very little seen Jack Nicholson flick Blood and Wine. Those two roles and this one here in Out of Sight showed she could actually act before she sold out for a music career…and are the only decent things she has ever done.

    • June 15, 2010 12:02 pm

      Never saw U-Turn, but yeah, this movie’s the shit. Definitely watch it again, would love to read your write-up.


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