Monday, August 15, 2011

Movie – Out of Sight (1998)

Back before Oscar nominations, a string of talked about movies, and an even longer string of talked about romances, George Clooney was just the guy from the TV show ER who was getting by on his charm and who was trying to make the transition to movies.  Back before American Idol, “J-Lo”, a music career, and Ben Affleck, there was just Jennifer Lopez, an up and coming actress.  It was at this point in both their lives that the movie Out of Sight came along and it forever changed the way that I saw both of them.

This movie was directed by Steven Soderbergh and he has to be given a ton of credit for getting Clooney to do more on screen than just tip his head down and look up through the tops of his eyes when he was talking to someone.  This was the first thing I had seen Clooney in where I said to myself, “Hey, he can actually act.”

As for Jennifer Lopez, I had seen her in Money Train and Anaconda and let’s just say neither movie had made me notice her for anything other than her looks.  In Out of Sight they do not tone down her attractiveness, but they actually give her a three dimensional character to play.  (This movie spawned a short-lived TV show about her character, titled Karen Sisco, which starred Carla Gugino.)

Some people faulted the movie by saying that a U.S Marshall would not be as attractive as Jennifer Lopez.  I guess those people figured only ugly women went into law enforcement.  Well, the story is based on an Elmore Leonard novel.  He was inspired to write the novel after seeing a newspaper picture of an attractive female Marshall holding a shotgun.  He got to wondering what would make such a woman choose such a career.  His novel was the result.

George Clooney plays bank robber Jack Foley who has been in and out of jail for much of his adult life.  With the help of a friend, played by Ving Rhames, he breaks out of his latest prison.  In the wrong place at the wrong time is U.S. Marshall Karen Sisco (Lopez.)  She ends up getting thrown into the trunk of a car, along with Clooney, while Rhames’ character drives them away.

What followed was the most talked about scene in the movie – the trunk scene.  While first angry, Sisco ends up biding her time until she can break free.  Foley spends the time striking up conversation with her.  At first she issues some threats, but finally she starts conversing with him despite herself.  He starts to talk about movies and the subtle changes in her face show that she likes movies herself and that she can’t help but be amused by Foley’s memory of some of them.  There is not a lot of space in the trunk.  They are essentially in spooning positions, with Foley behind her, and the sense of forced intimacy is very strong.  Foley keeps tapping his hand on her hip and thigh, but never does anything inappropriate.  He stumbles over his words here and there, showing that he is also attracted to her.  He asks her a “what if” question – what if he wasn’t a bank robber and she wasn’t a Marshall, would she have a drink with him?

What make the scene sexy are the subtle changes in facial expressions and vocal tones during the exchange.  These are two people who have no right to be attracted to each other, let alone be attracted to each other in their current situation, yet they are.  (Speaking of subtle, Lopez also does a great “Mona Lisa” hint of a smile in her final scene in the movie.)

Both go their own ways after the trunk scene, but end up intersecting a few more times as the movie goes along.  Please don’t think it’s just another “good girl is attracted to the bad boy” kind of thing.  First of all, those labels do an injustice to their characters.  Both are fully realized human beings.  Second, there is far more going on in this movie than just a flirtation between those two characters. 

Foley came to know a rich business man (Albert Brooks - playing it straight) and a petty criminal (the underrated Don Cheadle – see Devil in a Blue Dress sometime) while in a prior stretch in prison.  Both are now out and he knows the petty criminal plans a robbery of the businessman’s home in Detroit.  He plans to get there before the criminal.  Sisco is after both of them.

There are appearances by Steve Zahn, Catherine Keener, Luis Guzman, Dennis Farina, and Isaiah Washington.  There are also two cameos.  One is by Michael Keaton, who plays the same Ray Nicollette character he played the year before in Tarantino’s movie Jackie Brown, which was also based on an Elmore Leonard novel.  I won’t spoil the second cameo, but I will say that it is a great scene right at the very end of the film.

I’m not sure if a first time viewer of the film today will be able to see beyond the larger than life personas that both Clooney and Lopez have now.  I would hope so, otherwise people would be missing out on a great film.  This movie is highly recommended.

Chip’s Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

           DVD                      Blu-ray                 Instant Video

      Paperback                   Kindle

No comments:

Post a Comment