REVIEW: Out of Sight [1998]

“Do you ever wear one that says ‘undercover’?”

If Out of Sight is any indication, I really need to watch more Steven Soderbergh films. This movie is great on many levels. I’ve seen and loved Traffic, The Limey is top-notch, and the Ocean’s movies are enjoyable at times, however I never really jumped on the bandwagon. Maybe it was the boring, mediocre Erin Brochovich, or the fact that he left his indie roots to kick it with the big boys, I always pushed Soderbergh to the side, saying I’d get to him later. Well later has come. Out of Sight has pitch-perfect performances from every principal and supporting character on screen, the cross between drama, action, and comedy is flawless, and the style has just the right amount of flair.

The film starts out by throwing us right into the middle of a heist. Through current happenings and scene specific flashbacks, we learn the back-stories of every character and learn to accept them for whom they are, while also allowing us to believe each one’s evolution. George Clooney is great, as usual, playing himself—a smooth talking, slick ladies man, who gets the girl and the spoils. While Clooney could be knocked for not having much range as an actor, he sticks to his strengths and most times succeeds. His turn as a CIA agent in this year’s Syriana was well-deserving of the Oscar win, and hopefully he will get credit for the work he has put forth throughout his career; that being solid performances full of natural charisma. Ving Rhames shows us why he is one of the best character actors working today. One of those guys that you don’t mind seeing in every film, he doesn’t have much to do here, (a part reminiscent to the one he reprises in the Mission: Impossible series), he plays it right and never misses a beat. Don Cheadle also shows us the skill that he has finally been recognized for of late. The guy is great as the hero/good guy, (Hotel Rwanda, Manic), and here equal to the task as the villain. Cheadle shows some real malice here—sadistic malice. You never know what he will do next because you actually believe he is capable of anything.

Another thing this movie does is remind me how actors like Jennifer Lopez and Steve Zahn can really show skill when they have the right part. Zahn’s crazy, naïve, vulnerability is exactly what is needed to play against serious sarcasm, like that thrown around by Clooney’s character Foley. Zahn is seen too often in comedies where he falls flat and becomes redundant. He is the laugh man to any straight man, that is his strength and I wish we could see more of him in movies like this. As for Lopez, she really plays the role nicely. She exudes successful woman sexiness, quietly going through the movie, very low-key. This is before she became jack-of-all-trades, watering down her own image. As far as this film and Oliver Stone’s U-Turn, she can pull off the gritty drama much better than the saccharine coated movies she churns out presently. Also, one cannot forget to speak of Albert Brook’s chameleon-like performance. He is virtually unrecognizable until he speaks in the prison library. Expertly cast in the role, his serious tone lends itself well to the corporate criminal he plays, showing he means business while also letting some of his great comedic timing show through.

Through it all there is a great heist story from accomplished author Elmore Leonard. Whether there are plot holes, I really don’t remember. The brilliant performances draw you into their world completely and you go along for the ride without thinking twice. Soderbergh is an actor’s director for sure. His use of large ensembles always shows off a comradery that is realistic; he allows his cast to have fun and it translates to the screen. He is an artist as well with these quasi-low budget cinematic stabs. Like The Limey, he films with some flair. The still-frame effect is used effectively as a dissolve between scenes. It gets a bit much at some parts where we are shown small hitches, but overall works well for the caper story narrative. When he cuts between Lopez and Clooney at the hotel bar and room, we are given an amazing visceral scene. This is the crowning achievement of the film. With the bar conversation voicing over the scene, we go back and forth between the sexual tension at the bar and the awkwardness of their almost school yard crush at bedside. It is a great sequence to be remembered for its delicate care.

I hope to eventually see Soderbergh’s recent film Bubble and its subsequent digital companions in the future. It will be interesting to see him direct amateurs and if his skills are as good as they seem when handling the egos of professionals. Sex, Lies, and Videotapes along with Schizopolis are entering the queue of movies to see, and hopefully his Ocean’s 13, filming soon, won’t ruin a good thing, especially since 12 came dangerously close to doing so already.

Out of Sight 9/10 | ★ ★ ★ ½


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