Movie of the Week: Out of Sight (1998)

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Steven Soderbergh directs George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez and Ving Rhames in this classy Elmore Leonard adaptation about an escaped expert bank robber and a Federal Marshall who fall for each other in spite of being on opposing sides of their manhunt. 

A masterful exercise in sexiness and cool, this is like a movie that has been made personally for me. I have always loved it and am surprised more do not admire it. Everything chimes so perfectly. Scott Frank adapts Leonard’s ear for confident, crisp back-and-forth dialogue and the view that even the best criminals are making it up as they go along with a religious fervour. He gifts us with one of the most snappy and poetic movie scripts since the age of Kate Hepburn and Rosalind Russell. Soderbergh embraces his first mainstream studio project with an enthusiasm to recreate the forgotten visual tricks of Seventies greats like Richard Lester, John Schlesinger or Nic Roeg. This measured homage results in a gorgeous film defined by its daring use of primary colourful, timeslip editing, ethereal reflections and shimmering light. And if you have peak Clooney and J-Lo as your leads you want to make sure the whole thing looks as good as them. Their chemistry is fantastic; Clooney exploring his maturity and ability to be a goof, Lopez frankly never better, never even close to being as convincing in a film as she is as badass hottie Karen Cisco. All the casting is spot on. Dennis Farina dominates his few scenes as the relaxed alpha Daddy to his very capable daughter, amused at how she deals with sexist colleagues who aren’t half the law enforcer she is. Steve Zahn is sweet as the little fish swimming in dangerous waters, more than comic relief in a roll call where everyone lands laughs. And, in an inspired move Michael Keaton reprises his out of rhythm agent from Tarantino’s slightly weaker Leonard attempt, Jackie Brown. Sure, it is merely a fun, winking cameo but it somehow works a treat to see Ray Nicolette turn up in a completely unrelated film. The soundtrack, whether it is David Holmes’ knowingly slow humping score or the liberal use of Isley Brothers bangers, is superb. As for the crime stuff, well it is pretty tight. The best set-piece is our opening scene, where Clooney’s Jack Foley robs a bank with nothing but an opened briefcase and a whole lot of weathered charm. Perfection.

10

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