Throwback: Out of Sight Is a Great Romantic Caper Comedy
The uncertainty and anxiety surrounding Coronavirus has caused renewed attention to the 2011 movie, CONTAGION. Steven Soderbergh's viral thriller was always a great movie, but in 2020 it seems newly relevant.
Perhaps CONTAGION sounds a little intense right now, however. What you need is something entertaining and escapist, with a dash of the classic. We suggest turning back the clock to 1998, for an earlier Soderbergh hit: OUT OF SIGHT, in which George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez star as a fugitive bank robber and a federal marshal who fall for one another despite their obvious differences. Think of it like THE FUGITIVE, if the Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones characters wanted to date.
Classical Hollywood, Updated
OUT OF SIGHT opens with a scene that tells you exactly what sort of movie you're about to watch: Energetic and funny with some serious old Hollywood charm. A furious Jack Foley (George Clooney) storms out of a building before robbing a bank on the spur of the moment. He uses charm and wits rather than a gun, but he's undone by his impulsiveness. He goes to prison, breaks out of prison, and meets U.S. Marshal Karen Sisco (Jennifer Lopez) — and then things get interesting.
This movie has a little bit of everything: Classical Hollywood romance, a heist, broad comedy, a surprising supporting cast, and a solid prison storyline. It is also a bit darker and more violent than you might remember, but Soderbergh's command allows him to sneak in some pretty serious moments without upending the movie's buoyant tone.
A Romantic Pairing for the Ages
Above all else, OUT OF SIGHT is essential for the romantic scenes between stars George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez. Their chemistry is off the charts, with sparks flying between the two even when they're crammed together in a car trunk during a prison escape.
As their characters begin to banter about movies, Clooney's Jack Foley misquotes the movie NETWORK, and Lopez's reaction looks like the expression of someone who is already besotted. Soderbergh cuts the scene to emphasize glances and physical contact, and the entire encounter, strange as it is, has incredible romantic tension. Later in the movie, when Foley and Sisco make time for an actual date, the sequence becomes one of the all-time great romantic movie encounters.
When Steven Soderbergh cast George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez in OUT OF SIGHT, neither actor was yet a movie star. George Clooney was a TV star whose name was made on the mega-hit NBC series "E.R." and whose first big-screen efforts were minor genre hits (FROM DUSK TILL DAWN) or big-ticket fare (THE PEACEMAKER, BATMAN AND ROBIN) that almost did him more harm than good. Lopez's movie debut, SELENA, was a success but not the crossover mega-hit it deserved to be, and her debut album, "On the 6," was still over a year away.
OUT OF SIGHT turned both actors into movie stars. Soderbergh also gave memorable roles to Don Cheadle, as a ruthless boxer-turned-criminal, Steve Zahn, as a dopey wannabe bad guy, and Catherine Keener, as Foley's ex-girlfriend Adele. The great Albert Brooks plays a pretty complicated bad guy, Samuel L. Jackson has a memorable final scene cameo, and Michael Keaton even shows up to reprise his role from Quentin Tarantino's JACKIE BROWN. (Both that movie and OUT OF SIGHT are based on novels by Elmore Leonard.)
Every one of these actors — and many more we don't have space to list — get gags and payoffs of their own. OUT OF SIGHT is based on a clever, ambitious script, and Soderbergh is a generous director who is able to make time for memorable scenes for every character, from major to minor. Luis Guzman (who auditioned by accident!) has multiple perfect moments, for example, while playing a character that could be a stock throwaway in any other heist movie. All together these elements fuse into a modern classic. And hey, if you want something more serious when it's all over, there's always CONTAGION.
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All images courtesy of Universal Pictures.