Under the Radar is a weekly film column that highlights underappreciated and overlooked films of the past.
“Out of Sight” (1998)
Starring: George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez, Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Make room for Romeo and Juliet; go camping, Harry and Sally; get over Forrest and Jenny – you wannabes don’t know what cinematic chemistry is. These iconic couples could learn a thing or two from George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez in Out of Sight.
Jack Foley (George Clooney) has failed more banks than he can remember, but no matter how many times he’s thrown in jail, he always finds a way to get back into the game. In his latest bid, Foley escapes without issue, but due to simple bad luck, he is spotted – and even held at gunpoint – by Federal Marshal Karen Cisco (Jennifer Lopez), who ultimately fails to prevent Foley from escaping from prison.
Foley and Sisko share a fateful moment of intimacy in the trunk of a getaway car, striking up a flirtatious relationship that begins Sisko’s complex quest to get Foley back behind bars.
From diamond heists and prison brawls to barroom flirtations and love affairs, Out of Sight is non-stop entertainment that’s simultaneously gripping, funny and romantic.
Why Out of Sight is worth watching
Pulp Fiction fans and The Notebook obsessives can finally find common ground while cozying up on the couch and watching Out of Sight. Heartbreaking criminal activity, low-level personalities and edgy cops take a backseat to the true driving force of this film: romance and the power of flirtation.
Containing an episode that ranks among the romance scenes on my Mount Rushmore for its raw, flirtatious tension, “Out of Sight” earns its “sexy” approval without having to resort to nudity or explicit content.
Clooney’s presence as Foley is unmatched, and he shines with the charisma and confidence of an “old school Hollywood” hero. Clooney can make any viewer root for him, despite portraying an active bank robber, with his devastating beauty alone. But his Foley can only be appreciated when paired with Lopez’s equally stunning turn as Sisko.
Too often, moviegoers see cliche and lazy “tell the audience how strong and independent I am” moments from female characters to their male counterparts. This is not the case in Out of Sight. Rather, Lopez is simply showing viewers what a badass she really is. Buying every second of her gun-wielding, cunning portrayal of the United States Marshal, Lopez is a force to be reckoned with and elevates this film to the next level.
Adapted from the novel by legendary author Elmore Leonard, Out of Sight focuses on characters much more than plot, providing many different roles.
Buddy (Ving Rhames) does everything except go “medieval” as Foley, ready to die – hello to all Pulp Fiction fans – with 90’s glasses and a knitted cap that makes his character look cooler than ever. At one point, Don Cheadle’s frustrated character declares, “Reading is fundamental, and it’s bullshit!” which sums up his amazing performance as boxer and ex-con Snoop.
Among many others, Luis Guzman, Steve Zahn and Dennis Farina bring witty personalities to this film, providing sharp dialogue that would be rather dull delivered by most other actors.
Filled with freeze frames, stylish editing, and a world that just oozes cool, Out of Sight is a must-see for any movie lover. No doubt your boyfriend will dream of being as suave and suave as Foley, and your girl will want to be as attractive and seductive as Cisco – I think it’s a win-win for both parties.
Budget: $48 million
Global box office: $77.7 million
Why people didn’t see this movie in theaters five times is beyond me: Out of Sight actually lost money at the domestic box office, taking home just $37.5 million. Reviews were mostly positive, with popular critic Roger Ebert calling it “a crime movie less interested in the crime than in watching people talk, flirt, lie and get into trouble” in June 1998. review. Despite critical acclaim, Out of Sight was not initially a success with theater audiences, but found its footing later, most likely due to rising DVD sales.
Less appreciated in Steven Soderbergh’s filmography, Out of Sight was constantly overshadowed by the director’s Ocean’s trilogy. With its unique talent and non-linear structure, Out of Sight should be in every conversation Soderbergh is in – and J-Lo, for that matter.
Nominated for Academy Awards in 1999 in the Film Editing and Adapted Screenplay categories, Out of Sight did not walk away with a single award; however, this is not an Oscar movie. Rather, it is simply a quality, quality film that captivates audiences.
Those who like Clooney as a leading man who escaped from prison are in luck, since an odd number of films have been built on this very basis. In the cult classic From Dusk Till Dawn, Clooney plays another bank robber in a film that features one of the craziest genre switches of all time. If you want to hear about an eccentric 1930s Clooney escaping his chain gang, check out the Coen Brothers’ folk-infused “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”
Clooney also charms himself in Soderbergh’s Ocean trilogy, playing another smart criminal with a little more salt and pepper. Because Ocean’s Eleven is the best of the bunch, Soderbergh’s bold editing choices and brilliant storytelling style from Out of Sight shine even brighter. The director has worked in many genres, but for fans of his take on the crime world, Logan Lucky is a quirky heist movie that has flown under the radar in recent years.
For more Leonade adaptations, check out Jackie Brown, the sequel to Pulp Fiction by famed director Quentin Tarantino. This mild-mannered crime drama starring Pam Grier makes a direct connection to Out of Sight, as Michael Keaton’s Special Agent Ray Nicolette appears in both films, although the character has noticeably more screen time in Jackie Brown. Get Shorty is another adaptation from a cast led by John Travolta and Gene Hackman, with more emphasis on the author’s comedic tone.
Bonus Recommendation: To see another wild and unpredictable performance from Cheadle, watch Devil in a Blue Dress, in which Cheadle stars opposite Denzel Washington in a jazz-infused whodunit.
Next in “Under the Radar”: A classic coming of age story with a twist of rock ‘n’ roll.