Three years ago, I wrote briefly for the now defunct eyepiece.com. The following was a review dated June 27, 1998.
Out of Sight
, Rated R
Steven Soderbergh has proven that he's not just a fluke. (Either that, or this is just his second fluke.) Nine years after sex, lies, and videotape stormed the arthouse scene by intellectualizing sexual perversion, followed by a string of films that largely went unnoticed, Out of Sight now puts him back in the running as the filmmaker that his first film reputed him to be.
Something (obviously) must also be said of the writing. Elmore Leonard makes a so much more apt novel-film than the plastic cheese of Michael Crichton. Two of his earlier works, Get Shorty and Rum Punch (a.k.a. Jackie Brown) make him a good candidate as Quentin's alter-ego in print. Also from Get Shorty, we see the return of Scott Frank in applying his skill at adapting Leonard's work to the big screen. We'll get to see a bit more of Frank's work a little later this summer in the highly anticipated Saving Private Ryan.
There must be something about living outside the law that makes such interesting characters... personalities not defined by rules but rather by the degree of anarchy. Out of Sight, with its plotless humor, slick detachment, and self-referencing time warps, is more like Pulp Fiction than Pulp Fiction is like Reservoir Dogs. The vast array of people who are otherwise collectively known as criminals comes in all shapes and sizes and different levels of criminality -- from Steve Zahn's dopey non-violent type and Don Cheadle's cold gang leader to Keith Loneker's slow-witted henchman and Ving Rhames' honorable thug.
At the center of course, in a pair of excellent performances, are George Clooney (an escaped convict who specializes in unarmed bank robbery) and Jennifer Lopez (the U.S. marshal after Clooney and his merry men)... both showing the star-quality that can elevate them from minor stars to major ones (let's hope they don't blow it by doing lame Judge Dredd sell-out popcorners). After a rather frumpy attempt at a seductress in U Turn, Lopez is redeemed with the role of a nearly perfect woman, the kind of skilled, calm, and wry role they used to write only for men. The marshal and bank robber engage in the kind of teasing duel between two masters that have truly learned to love their enemy.
Out of Sight, despite its throw-away title, is a full ensemble of talent, creating an otherworldly atmosphere nailed home by slow hypnotic mood music. With touches like the relationship between one wealthy victim and his maid, you can rest assured this film didn't just come off the Hollywood cookie-board cutout school of filmmaking.
Some things I notice, now rereading my writing:
1. I was purposely exaggerating both my approval for the parts I liked and my disapproval for the parts I didn't like. Perhaps to make the review more interesting. Perhaps to influence readers more. I can't remember.
2. Lots of dripping cynicism in spite of the praise - seems to lend the writing more credibility than it deserves.
3. Alternating between approval and disapproval, but ultimately concluding with approval in order to keep the reader upbeat.
4. Evidence of my continuing mission to get writers the credit they deserve.
5. Shameless hints of anarchism :)
6. Use of false dichotomies - though it wasn't always limited to just two choices.