After being the hunk of the moment on E.R., George Clooney came out of the starting blocks as a film actor in a few films, ranging the gamut from cult favorite (From Dusk ‘Til Dawn) to somewhat critically praised (The Peacemaker). He was also played the starring role in the film that put the Batman franchise on life support. One of his first smart acting choices came in Out Of Sight, directed by Steven Soderbergh, before Soderbergh became the Hollywood flavor of the mont… with Traffic and Erin Brockovich. His female co-star was Jennifer Lopez, whose most notable films at the time were Money Train and Anaconda. The pair was surrounded by an outstanding cast that included Don Cheadle (Boogie Nights), Albert Brooks (Mother), Luis Guzman (Punch Drunk Love) and Ving Rhames (Pulp Fiction), to name a few.
Adapted from the Elmore Leonard book, the first shot is of Jack Foley (Clooney), a serial bank robber who was escorted out of an office, and throws his tie to the ground. Foley assesses the situation and sees a bank in the distance, one he decides to rob in a weaponless, clever manner. When he leaves however, the car he had driven couldn’t turn over, so Foley is sent to prison. However Foley, with the help of Jose Chirino (Guzman), breaks out of prison, and finds Foley’s friend Buddy (Rhames). Also at the prison gates, waiting for a completely unrelated matter, is Karen Sisco (Lopez). Sisco attempts to foil the breakout, but Foley and Buddy capture her and put her in her trunk, along with Foley, with Buddy driving out before the checkpoints get set up. Jack and Karen strike up a friendly, flirty discussion. Once on the road, they stop after a few minutes, to meet up with Glenn (Steve Zahn, Saving Silverman), a friend of Jack & Buddy’s from prison. During the storytelling, there are some flashbacks that are done to help flush out the characters of Glenn (Zahn’s stoner car thief role), Ripley (Brooks) and Snoopy (Cheadle). All the while, Karen is attracted to how dangerous Jack is, and Jack is attracted to her. They eventually have a love scene, intertwined with the first signs they’ll hook up, the touch of a hand, a smile, whatever. So it looks and feels like an upscale love scene, despite the fact that you don’t really see that much flesh from either of them.
Soderbergh does a great job shooting the film, showing same of the some film stock tricks in some scenes from Traffic. He took an already solid screenplay from Scott Frank, who had previously adapted the Leonard book, Get Shorty, and more recently contributed a screenplay to Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report, and elevated the work to a higher level of storytelling. Everyone in the cast turns in outstanding performances, and even Michael Keaton has an uncredited (and better) performance as Ray Nicolet, the same role he played in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown. Despite this film’s disappointing $37 million box office take, it’s a smart mix of romance, drama and dark comedy that is well worth revisiting.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is also very well done, considering most of the movie is a “talker,” bullet sounds fill the sound area, and I noticed in one prison scene, a PA announcement was being made, something the rear speakers picked up very discreetly, a very good job done here.
The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen included on the disc really is beautiful, with solid, consistent black levels and almost no noticeable grain, and it has to be good to include the wide variety of colors that Soderbergh used to provide tone in scenes.
Universal put this out as both a Collector’s and DTS editions, much like their releases of Jaws and 12 Monkeys, to name a few, and I’ll be looking at the Collector’s Edition, which contained the extra material. The informative extras start with a 25 minute look behind the scenes of the movie, aptly named Inside Out of Sight. It starts with how Leonard got his idea for the book, and features interview footage with him, Soderbergh, Frank, Zahn, Rhames, Lopez, Cheadle, Brooks and Clooney. Soderbergh provides his opinions of the cast, and the cast returns serve, gushing over one another also. Clooney gives fairly entertaining basketball scouting reports on some of the male actors, but Soderbergh keeps the ship going, with thoughts on some of the filming, along with the intended style of the film. 13 deleted scenes totaling over 22 minutes are also featured. They are in full frame, and in 2.0 audio, and a lot of what’s here could have easily been included in the film. The intended sequence in the trunk is included, and running at over 6 minutes, it’s understandable to see why test audiences didn’t like this version immediately. More scenes add some depth to Cheadle’s Snoopy character, along with Brooks’ Ripley, but overall, these scenes are some of the more regrettable cuts I’ve seen put on a DVD, a lot of quality stuff here that is a pleasant addition to the DVD.
14 music cues, are here, which identify the songs, and you get scene access to each. 12 pages of production notes are included, along with biographies and filmographies for the stars, as well as Soderbergh. The Universal weblinks are also here, as well as the trailer, and a 4 page summary of the transfer for the film is included, something that perhaps more studios may want to include in the future. Soderbergh and Frank contribute a commentary to the set also. Soderbergh asks during the commentary, “Do people ever listen to these?” and I think he knows what the answer is, as he’s a commentary track veteran at this point. Recorded before The Limey was released, and around the time when Clint Eastwood’s True Crime came out (in which Isaiah Washington, who played Don Cheadle’s brother in Out of Sight, had a prominent role), the two share a good deal of information, as well as a dry sense of humor. There is talk about how much trouble there was getting a director for the film, and that Barry Sonnenfeld (Men in Black) had passed on it at one point, plus there were several drafts that were used, before Soderbergh wanted to stick with Frank’s. Soderbergh provides his usual wealth of stories about the technical and camera information, as well as the sound and lighting. He also remains in a “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve” frame of mind, always thinking of some shots that could have been added or changed to add to an already pleasant experience. Soderbergh’s commentaries are always pretty good, and this one is no different.
The film is much better than people initially gave it credit for, plus the extras are substantial and the transfer looks very good. Throw all that in, plus a commentary track from Soderbergh, and the price is a steal. Soderbergh fans should pick this up, but it’s worth renting at the very least, and a buy to modest film fans.
Special Features List
- Director/Writer Commentary
- Making Of Featurette