In the opening scene of Out of Sight, George Clooney, playing Jack Foley, walks into a bank. After some quiet banter with a teller, he says to her that the man sitting from a desk across from her has a gun and unless she gives Foley everything in her drawer. Only until Jack talks to the man about the teller do we realize that the hold-up was a ruse.
It’s a tense scene with a clever pay-off that sets up the comedic tone of Out of Sight. Directed by Steven Steven Soderbergh and based off of Elmore Leonard’s novel (other adaptations of Leonard’s work include Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown), Out of Sight is a comic crime caper with a sharp attitude. Unlike many other filmgoers, I’ve never been too fond of Soderbergh’s work, mostly because I dislike his consistent use of celebrity cameos (done notoriously in the phoned-in Ocean’s trilogy), but Out of Sight is more in-line with the director’s earlier work. Soderbergh uses his cast and plot not for some conventional and generic studio picture but a cutting-edge thriller.
Shortly after his robbery, Foley is caught and sent to prison but manages to escape with help from his partner Buddy (Ving Rhames). Afterwards, both Jack and Buddy plan to steal uncut diamonds from a Wall Street tycoon they met in jail, though they find themselves competing with Snoopy (Don Cheadle), a sly and dangerous boxer, and Glenn (Steve Zahn), a dimwitted prison-mate of Foley’s, not to mention they’re being chased down by Karen Sisco (Jennifer Lopez), a federal marshal intent on catching Jack.
The main inspiration for Out of Sight is undeniably from the 70s-style action thrillers. Soderbergh’s quick cutting as well as his frequent use of freeze frames, certainly calls upon the cop movies of the decade, reminding me of The New Centurions. In particular George Clooney’s protagonist is a fine example of an anti-hero, a Steve McQueen-Martin Sheen-esque role. Clooney does an excellent job in his brash performance and has strong chemistry with Jennifer Lopez, an actress I have never particularly enjoyed previously but succeeds as well.
Out of Sight is not an emotional movie but it doesn’t need to be. Like Quentin Tarantino, Stephen Soderbergh prefers style to substance but in the case of both directors, the style’s what drives the picture. Out of Sight’s job is to provide thrills and entertain viewers and it exceeds its purpose; it’s a purely enjoyable movie that moves from one energetic scene from another.