OUT OF SIGHT
No previous adaptation of an Elmore Leonard novel - and there have
been a couple of pretty good ones recently in Get Shorty and
Jackie Brown - has captured the author's unique flavor quite
as well as Out of Sight. Though Leonard usually writes about
underworld characters, he doesn't exactly write crime novels; though
his stories are often quite funny, he doesn't exactly write comic
novels; though his stories always come together in a way that makes
sense, he doesn't exactly let tight plotting get in the way of an
amusing tangent. Leonard is his own literary breed: sometimes sordid,
sometimes smirking, always sly.
You'll find every one of those contradictions and then some in Steven
Soderbergh's Out of Sight, a marvelously meandering caper with
rhythms all its own. The story focuses on the aftermath of the Florida
prison escape of career bank robber Jack Foley (George Clooney). In
the wrong place at the wrong time - or perhaps the right place - is
U. S. Marshal Karen Sisco (Jennifer Lopez), who ends up sharing a trunk
with Jack when his friend Buddy (Ving Rhames) commandeers Karen's car
for the escape. Surprisingly, the ride proves intriguing to both parties.
Karen manages to free herself and gets on the case of re-apprehending
Jack, though she isn't sure whether she wants him for business or
pleasure. Jack, meanwhile, prepares for his next big score, though
he isn't sure whether it's cash or Karen he hopes to be scoring.
Out of Sight works best as a quirky comedy, with screenwriter
Scott Frank (who also adapted Get Shorty) providing great material
for a superb supporting cast. Steve Zahn steals every one of his scenes
as Jack and Buddy's perpetually stoned accomplice Glenn, channeling
Crispin Glover with considerably more appealing goofiness. Also on hand
are Albert Brooks as the white-collar crook whose home is our heroes'
next target, Don Cheadle as edgy partner-in-crime Maurice "Snoopy" Miller,
and Dennis Farina as Karen's protective father. There are even a couple
of sharp unbilled cameos, including Michael Keaton reprising his
character from Jackie Brown and a final scene appearance by
another veteran of a previous Leonard adaptation. A good script can
make even mediocre actors look good; Frank's script in the hands of these
actors is consistently entertaining.
But Out of Sight isn't just a comedy; it's also a love story,
if a very odd one. The relationship between Jack and Karen is the heart
of the film, a dangerous set-up since the two characters share only two
scenes for all practical purposes. Both scenes, however, are perfectly
executed: the trunk-trapped conversation (seductively photographed by
Elliot Davis in tail-light red), and a meeting in a hotel bar which
fluidly intertwines with a closer encounter in Karen's room. Clooney
has never looked more comfortable or charismatic on the big screen - nor,
for that matter has Lopez. With a clever nod to the unbelievable nature
of many film romances (in a reference to Three Days of the Condor),
Out of Sight gets maximum mileage out of the pairing of its
stars to create a believable mis-matched romance.
Out of Sight also adds plenty of crime caper elements to its
comedy and romance, including no small amount of bloodshed, but even
then it seems entirely cohesive. Credit Soderbergh with crafting a
distinctive, unifying look and feel from Frank's deftly back-tracking
script. Most frequently he employs an abrupt freeze-framing device,
usually to mark transitions between scenes and location. In Soderbergh's
capable hands the freeze-frames never feel gimmicky, instead playing
as chapter stops on Leonard's snappy punch lines. There's nothing
particularly deep or intensely memorable about Out of Sight -
indeed, the pace flags at times - but it's the kind of film which punches
holes in the notion that
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