Universal // 1998 // 123 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Harold Gervais (Retired) // April 3rd, 2000
From the novel by Elmore Leonard comes a film written by Scott Frank and directed by Steven Soderbergh.
Out of Sight is a crime movie, but unlike most crime movies this one is more concerned with dialogue than it is with actual acts of skullduggery. This film relishes and savors the way people speak, give furtive glances and flirt. It is a movie about falling in love and getting into trouble. It is a movie about change.
The story is about a longtime bank robber named Jack Foley, played by George Clooney (Three Kings, One Fine Day). While breaking out of a Florida prison Foley, along with his pal on the outside, Buddy Bragg, played by the wonderful Ving Rhames (Pulp Fiction, Mission Impossible) end up meeting and kidnapping a beautiful federal marshall named Karen Sisco, Jennifer Lopez (Selena, Anaconda). Instantly attracted to Sisco, Foley and the federal marshall spent a half-hour laying next to each other in the trunk of Buddy's car. They speak of movies and of life, and Foley wonders what would have happened if they had met under different circumstances. It is the key scene of the film, and afterwards it is very clear that both Foley and Sisco are hooked. A free but hunted man, Foley wants his shot at one last score so he can get out of "the life." Glenn Michaels (Steve Zahn), another inmate on the outside, gives him that opportunity. Michaels knows of a stash of diamonds kept by billionaire Richard Ripley (Albert Brooks) in his suburban Detroit home. Ripley was another inmate friend of Jack's and it is their "relationship," in and outside of jail, that adds fuel to the fire for Foley to commit the crime.
Off to Detroit everyone goes, more characters come into play, including a very chilling Don Cheadle (Boogie Nights) as Maurice "Snoopy" Miller, complications arise, and being a crime movie, people die. Part of the fun of a movie such as this is not knowing what will come next, and I will not spoil any big surprises for you. The film never stops being fun. It twists, turns and shakes to the only conclusion it can really have.
At first glance the thought of Steven Soderbergh, the director of such films as sex, lies and videotape, The Underneath, King of the Hill and Kafka would seem to be an odd choice for a project such as Out of Sight. Not so. Soderbergh brings a unique sensibility to the material. He directs the film with a great deal of style and sexuality. Using jump cuts, freeze frames and flashbacks Soderbergh and screenwriter, Scott Frank stir an interesting plot that takes its time to come together. Under their care all the characters are given a chance to live and breathe. It is very strong work from two artists at the top of their game.
At the core of the film is the repartee between Lopez and Clooney. They have an unforced kind of comfortableness around each other that reminds me of Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. Lopez takes what could easily be a cliché and runs with it. It is a star performance of incredible sensuality and of believable realism.
After several lackluster films in which he was the lead, Out of Sight is the film where George Clooney proved he was a "star." Clooney plays a fellow who has only known one thing his entire life -- robbing banks. His Foley is a man trapped by his own life. It is only through meeting and falling in love with Sisco that Jack sees there may be another life out there for him. It is a wonderfully complex performance that at the same time is very simple. The greatest praise I can give Clooney is that there were several points during the film where the only other person I could imagine playing Jack Foley was James Garner. Clooney has that same kind of breezy style and confidence. That ability to say more with a look and a glance than any ten pages of script could give him. He really is that good.
In support there is not a bad performance in the lot. Rhames is rock solid as Foley's best friend and conscience, Buddy. Dennis Farina (Get Shorty, Crime Story) is a joy to behold as Sisco's father, who knows his daughter only too well. Cheadle continues to impress with a body of work that places him among the best character actors of our day, and Albert Brooks will make you forget that it is "Albert Brooks" as the venal and egocentric Ripley.
Universal gives us a beautiful anamorphic transfer that maintains the films 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Colors and fleshtones are natural looking, detail is sharp with no edge enhancement and blacks are solid with zero bleed. An almost reference quality picture. Out of Sight also offers a bouncy and active 5.1 mix. Surrounds are used effectively, dialogue is always clear, and David Holmes' great musical score is presented to great effect. The disc also has Dolby Surround Sound tracks in French and Spanish.
The disc is also a full-blown special edition. Presented in full frame are ten deleted scenes, including the infamous first try at the "trunk" scene. After watching it, I can see why it was reshot. As part of a movie I can see where it would really grind things to a halt, but on its own it kind of works as a short film. The other main highlight of the deleted scenes is a wonderful bit between Rhames and Clooney, where the joys of taking a hot bath are discussed. Very funny stuff. There is also a "making-of" feature called "Inside Out of Sight" and for what it is, it's very informative and amusing. Not your usual, run of the mill video press packet.
This being a Steven Soderbergh directed film, the highlight of the special features is the scene specific commentary track with Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Frank. While not nearly as contentious as the track with Lem Dobbs on The Limey, this one is still a lot of fun and very informative. I would venture to say that Soderbergh's only real competition for best commentary track provider is Kevin Smith. Well worth a listen. Also included on the disc are music highlights from the film, production notes, crew and cast bios and the theatrical trailer.
I don't have a negative thing to say about either the film or its DVD incarnation from Universal. The only crime here is that it did not do as well as it should have with the box office or with the Oscars.
Out of Sight was one of the best films of 1998. It is sexy and funny. It has great acting on every level and inventive direction with very smart writing. Since it is also one of Universal's best discs, I see no reason why this one should not be on every collector's shelf. Pardon the pun, but it would be a crime to miss this one.
Everyone connected with the film is acquitted of all charges and released to go and make more great movies and discs. I am especially looking forward to Soderbergh's remake of the rat pack classic Ocean's 11 with George Clooney.
Thank you for your time and service. Case dismissed.
Review content copyright © 2000 Harold Gervais; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 123 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Audio Commentary with Director Steven Soderbergh and Screenwriter Scott Frank
* "Inside Out of Sight," an Original Documentary on The Making of the Film Featuring Behind-the-Scenes Footage and Interviews
* Deleted Scenes
* Theatrical Trailer