J.D. Lafrance
Out of Sight: Collector’s Edition DVD Review

Out of Sight: Collector’s Edition

December 16, 2004

Director: Steven Soderbergh,
Starring: George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez, Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle, Albert Brooks, Steve Zahn, Dennis Farina, Nancy Allen, Catherine Keener, Isaiah Washington, Luis Guzmán, ,

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DVD Review

J.D. Lafrance

“It’s like seeing someone for the first time. You can be passing on the street and you look at each other and for a few seconds there’s this kind of recognition. Like you both know something, and the next moment the person’s gone. And it’s too late to do anything about it. And you always remember it because it was there and you let it go. And you think to yourself, what if I stopped? What if I said something? What if?” – Jack Foley

This bit of dialogue from Out of Sight (1998) perfectly captures the essence of the relationships between the characters in this film. It is about the what ifs and the what could have beens. What the characters do and, more importantly, what they don’t do directly determines their fate.

As the film begins, Jack Foley (Clooney), a career bank robber, escapes from a Florida prison with the help of his loyal accomplice Buddy (Rhames). In the heat of the moment they kidnap a beautiful Federal Marshall named Karen Sisco (Lopez). She and Jack are stuffed in the trunk of her car as they make a hasty retreat. Trapped in such a small, confined space Jack and Karen have nothing to do but engage in idle chitchat. Even though they are on completely opposite sides of the law there’s a spark, an initial attraction that blossoms into something more as the film progresses and their paths inevitably cross again.

Director Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Frank achieve a perfect mix with Out of Sight. The film’s pace moves with effortless ease and self-confidence. The know when to slow things down and savour the moment as well. As Frank proved with his excellent screenplay for Get Shorty (1995), he perfectly understands Elmore Leonard’s distinctive cadence and the speech patterns of his characters. Cinematic adaptations of books are almost always inferior because so much has to be cut out or changed to fit into a two-hour film. However, Leonard’s books are tailor-made for movie adaptations because they are very visual and almost entirely dialogue and character-driven – ideal for the screenplay format. Out of Sight is one of those rare movies that is actually better than the book.

Soderbergh and his cameraman, Elliot Davis, paint their film with a specific colour code. The bright colours of the Florida scenes – especially the prison sequences with vibrant blue and the bright yellow prison uniforms worn by various characters – provide a nice contrast to the second half of the film which consists mainly of a gun-metal blue colour scheme. The Detroit scenes have a cold, metallic feel to them and this really comes out.

After a string of so-so films, George Clooney finally hit paydirt with Out of Sight. With his movie star good looks and suave charm, he is perfectly cast as the smooth talking criminal. This may be his finest performance to date. For Clooney what attracted him to this role was the chance to play a character that evoked his cinematic heroes of the past. Clooney’s style of acting is perfect for this role as he plays Foley with the right amount of laid-back charm. This is typified by his character’s introduction – the most pleasant, non-violent bank robbery ever committed to film. Clooney has such a likable screen presence that you want to see his character succeed.

Conversely, Jennifer Lopez is his perfect foil as a smart, tough law enforcement officer who can’t help but fall in love with this charismatic criminal. She is a very attractive woman but not above wielding a shotgun to apprehend a fugitive. There is a genuine chemistry between the two actors that makes their romance work. And it is this relationship that gives Out of Sight its depth. There is more to this movie than snappy banter and a hip soundtrack.

A killer cast supports the two lead actors. Steve Zahn, an underrated character actor, is perfect as Glen, a stoner screw-up who looks up to Jack but is a royal pain in the ass. Dennis Farina plays Karen’s laid-back dad who buys his daughter a handgun for her birthday and just wants to see her married to a lawyer or a doctor. Albert Brooks is Richard Ripley, a bumbling white-collar criminal type who is in way over his head and sports a truly awful toupee. Don Cheadle plays “Snoopy” Miller, a tough guy-wannabe that is a classic schoolyard bully. Rounding this cast out is Ving Rhames, Jack’s tough, God-fearing partner in crime.

David Holmes’ catchy R&B score comes in and instantly transports the viewer into this world. He mixes in his own brand of funky electronica with old school tunes from the likes of the Isley brothers and Willie Bobo. From the atmospheric noises in the background to Holmes’ superb trip hop beats; this is a great sounding movie.

Special Features:

Right from the impressive animated menus that feature key moments from the movie (complete with the appropriate mood music from the soundtrack), you know that a lot of effort and care went into this disc and this is obvious in the excellent supplemental materials that are included.

The film’s director, Steven Soderbergh and the screenwriter, Scott Frank contribute a fantastic audio commentary on the disc. They talk about working on the film and with the actors in a way that is an entertaining blend of informative and anecdotal material. If you wanted to know how they shot (and reshot) the trunk scene or learn how good a basketball player George Clooney really is, it’s all in the commentary.

There is also a nice 25-minute Making Of documentary entitled, “Inside Out of Sight.” It’s light, entertaining fare that features behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with Soderbergh, Clooney, Rhames and Elmore Leonard. Sure, it’s a fluff promo piece produced by the studio but it looks like everyone involved had fun doing it.

Throughout the commentary Soderbergh and Frank mention several scenes that were shortened or cut altogether. Eleven of these scenes are collected and included in their own section. It becomes readily evident why these scenes were cut but it is still great to see their inclusion on this disc – especially the alternate take of the trunk scene that was originally one long take. My only complaint is that I wish they could’ve broken up these scenes into their own individual tracks instead of one long track. This makes it harder to jump to a specific deleted scene. It’s a minor quibble but an annoyance nonetheless.

And finally, there is a section called “Music Highlights” which allows you to select 14 different musical cues as they appear throughout the film. Selecting each one instantly transports you to the corresponding scene from the film. The highlights not only include the various artists on the soundtrack but also David Holmes’ downright funky score for the film. Kudos to the makers of this disc for showcasing an often-overlooked part of this film.

Out of Sight is a film about making choices and taking chances despite the sometimes inevitable, painful consequences. It is also an entertaining look at a collection of colourful characters and the exciting world they inhabit. This is a smart, sexy and wonderfully stylish crime thriller that was ignored by audiences (due to lousy advertising and an even worse release date) but garnered strong critical reaction (winding up on many Best Of lists that year). Fortunately, Out of Sight has been re-discovered on video and recognized as one of the best Elmore Leonard adaptations ever put to film.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance


Rating: 96%



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