[Screen It]


(1998) (George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez) (R)

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Drama: A federal marshal tails a laid back bank robber and must deal with her growing romantic feelings for him.
Jack Foley (GEORGE CLOONEY) is a laid back, but professional bank robber. One of the most successful in history, he's known for his courteous and nonviolent behavior. After pulling off his most recent heist, however, he's captured and sent to a Florida penitentiary. There, he learns of an upcoming prison break, and manages to get in on it.

Later, as the cons are escaping, Federal Marshal Karen Sisco (JENNIFER LOPEZ) just happens upon the scene. With her gun aimed at Jack, she's surprised by his old friend and former prison mate, Buddy Bragg (VING RHAMES), who throws her in her trunk -- which she then occupies with Jack -- while they make their getaway. Sharing those tight quarters, an odd romantic spark ignites between the two, a fact that troubles Karen since she's supposed to be upholding the law.

Convincing a third partner of theirs, Glenn Michaels (STEVE ZAHN), to drive off, Karen manages to escape but can't get her mind off Jack, a fact that her father, Marshall Sisco (DENNIS FARINA), can't help but notice. After a series of other encounters, Karen follows Jack and his crew to Detroit where they're planning to rob several million dollars worth of uncut diamonds from Richard Ripley (ALBERT BROOKS), a wealthy tycoon who also spent time in prison with all of them.

Added to the mix is another ex-con and ex-boxer, Maurice (Snoopy) Miller (DON CHEADLE), who, along with his cousin, Kenny (ISAIAH WASHINGTON), and huge bodyguard, "White Boy" Bob (KEITH LONEKER), also plan to steal the diamonds after Glenn has blabbed about their existence. As the two groups of thieves descend upon the sprawling estate, Karen must deal with her inner conflict between her duty to uphold the law and her growing affection for Jack.

If they're fans of someone in the cast or of recent film adaptions of Elmore Leonard novels ("Get Shorty," "Jackie Brown"), they just might.
For language and some strong violence.
  • GEORGE CLOONEY plays a courteous, professional bank robber who, until the gun shooting finale, doesn't use much violence. He does cuss some and sleeps with Karen, however.
  • JENNIFER LOPEZ plays a federal marshal who also cusses and sleeps with Jack, but more importantly she lets her idealized romantic feelings toward Jack interfere with her duty to uphold the law.
  • VING RHAMES plays another ex-con who participates in another robbery.
  • DON CHEADLE plays a violent ex-con.
  • STEVE ZAHN plays an often befuddled ex-con and "stoner."


    OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
    The third big screen treatment of crime novelist Elmore Leonard's work to be released in as many years, "Out Of Sight" is probably the weakest of the bunch. Although it's not horrible by any stretch of the imagination and fares better than a great deal of the flotsam sent forth by the studios year after year, it doesn't compare well with the other recent adaptions, "Get Shorty" and "Jackie Brown." While all three have interesting and diverse criminal characters, the first two films balanced them with well conceived, complicated, and often twist-filled plots.

    None of that's to be found in this version from director Steven Soderbergh ("sex, lies, and videotape"). Since I haven't read the original novel, I can't state whether Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Frank (who received an Oscar nomination for his adaption of "Get Shorty") have changed things much. I can say, however, that the plot here is the weakest element in the film.

    While Soderbergh jumps back and forth through time -- a storytelling style that definitely makes the proceedings vastly more interesting than had they all been laid out in a strict linear fashion -- it's not done with as much fun as in "Jackie Brown" nor as effectively as in Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction." Mainly used to introduce other characters and exposition, the nonlinear approach is welcomed, but offers the only zing to an otherwise mundane plot.

    Of course some moviegoers will love the complex, quirky and often well defined characters that populate the story. My main objection is that such interesting characters alone can't carry a movie and that's all too apparent here. Part of that does lie, however, with my own predisposition toward strong plots -- and the more twist-filled and undulating they are, so much the better for my personal liking.

    Now, I must also admit that I went into this picture unfamiliar with the source material and assumed it would be similar to "Get Shorty" and "Jackie Brown. Thus, I'm guilty as charged for having preconceived notions and wishes regarding how the film would play out. Yet, when it begins with what has to be the one of the most uneventful bank robbery opening sequences in the history of cinema, I knew something was amiss.

    Sure, I understand that such a nonchalant scene effectively shows us the lead character's charming disposition and modus operandi, but for a crime caper it comes off as leaden and dull. At other times, such flat scenes are completely unbelievable. When Buddy picks up Karen and carries her toward the trunk of her car, does she scream to get the attention of the prison guards who are just yards away? Not a chance.

    My biggest problem with the script is the extremely important moment that follows that particular scene. To make the rest of the film and the lead characters' motivations believable, we're supposed to buy into the notion that enough romantic electricity is generated between them to completely alter their better judgement. As they briefly compared old movies and touched on wondering how things might be different had they met under other conditions, I was able to partially go along with Jack falling for her.

    After all, he's that smooth operating con man, and having just spent some time in the joint, would probably be attracted to any member of the opposite sex, especially if they're a "looker" like Jennifer Lopez. However, I didn't accept that same hook being sunk deep into her. Although that notion plays into the "hardened professional woman who has a soft spot for a guy from the wrong side of the tracks" scenario, there's nothing there to make us believe it for a moment (unless you're a hopeless diehard romantic).

    Had Karen's character been introduced with a more believable flaw for falling for the wrong kinds of guys (which is somewhat hinted at), I could have bought the whole notion of her being mesmerized by Jack. Without that, however, everything that follows is hard to swallow and the lackluster plot is consequently weakened even more.

    Fortunately, and despite those motivational problems, the interestingly drawn characters partially save the day. George Clooney ("The Peacemaker," "One Fine Day") -- who's always seems better in romantic-based roles than pure action films -- gets to utilize that winning charm he so effortlessly exudes in nearly any role he inhabits. With that winning smile and "come hither" stare, his performance should delight his female fans. For the guys in the audience, there's the beautiful Jennifer Lopez ("Selena," "Anaconda"). Playing a determined and professional woman while constantly remaining pleasant to the eye (is there any other way in Hollywood?), Lopez delivers yet another solid performance.

    The supporting characters are also nicely constructed, but unfortunately there's just not enough time for all of them to shine. Ving Rhames ("Pulp Fiction," "Mission Impossible") is as good as always, Don Cheadle ("Bulworth," "Boogie Nights") plays yet another tough hoodlum (for which we hope he's not going to get typecast), and Albert Brooks ("Mother," "Broadcast News") is quite funny in his brief role as the wealthy, but crooked tycoon. The rest of the dream cast also includes crime movie favorite Dennis Farina, wacky Steve Zahn, and even uncredited cameos by Michael Keaton and Samuel L. Jackson (briefly, but cleverly playing off their characters from "Jackie Brown").

    It's just too bad that director Soderbergh didn't pay as much loving detail to the rest of the film as he did the characters. While he's infused the picture with a 1970's look (bland colors and plenty of meaningless freeze frames), and given Clooney's character the strange habit of snapping his fingers to ignite an old-fashioned cigarette lighter, the plot doesn't carry such fine characteristics.

    Unfortunately, the clever and mostly likeable characters (considering most of them are criminals) can't entirely carry the picture by themselves. Without any proven box office draws within the cast, and noting the disappointing performance of "Jackie Brown" (which was, after all, Tarantino's highly anticipated follow up to "Pulp Fiction"), this film seems destined for a brief theatrical run before hitting the video shelves. Okay, but certainly not great, we give "Out Of Sight" a 5 out of 10.

    Here's a quick look at the film's content. Violence is extreme, with several people being shot and killed (some bloody) and others being wounded. Profanity is also extreme with 50+ "f" words and a large assortment of other words and phrases. Most of the characters are criminals and are portrayed sympathetically (occasionally close to being glamorized until the violent end), and the two main characters have sex, but we don't see anything beyond them kissing. While it's questionable how many kids will want to see this film, you may want to take a closer look at its content to determine if it's appropriate for them, you, or anyone else in your home.

  • Glenn comments about smoking a joint to relax, and while he has the typical "stoner" thought process and speech pattern, we don't see him doing any of it. Later, he comments, "If I wasn't so stoned, there's no way you would have talked me into this."
  • Some guys drink in a bar.
  • Karen drinks bourbon in a bar, Jack later joins her, and they have more in a hotel room and she comments that she "loves" bourbon.
  • People drink at a boxing match.
  • We see bloody puncture wounds when a prisoner repeatedly stabs another prisoner.
  • A homicide scene briefly shows two murder victims (one that's bloody) and blood splatter on the wall.
  • We see small bloody bullet holes in a sheet covering a man, and in the back of another person who's been shot.
  • A man's head is rather bloody after accidentally shooting himself.
  • A little bit of blood squirts out when a person is shot in the leg.
  • Jack and most nearly everyone else is a criminal of one sort or another, and continues in that profession despite having served time in prison more than once (Jack robs banks, Buddy steals a woman's car, Snoopy and others kill people, etc...).
  • Karen cuts Jack some slack (not arresting or shooting him) for most of the film due to her romantic feelings for him.
  • A man tells Karen that "every bitch needs a bone" (at first referring to canines, but then quickly to her). He then says, "I'll give you a good bone" and comments about "letting the monster out..."
  • Some guys try to pick up Karen in a bar.
  • Ripley's having an affair with a married woman (we don't see anything).
  • Viewers may find scenes listed under "Violence" as tense as well, but most aren't intentionally played to be too suspenseful.
  • The violent finale may be tense to some viewers with several fights, gun battles, and standoffs.
  • Handguns/Shotguns/Machine guns: Used to threaten, wound, or kill people. See "Violence" for details.
  • Karen's father gives her a handgun as a gift.
  • Shank: Used by a prisoner to repeatedly stab another prisoner.
  • Phrases: "Dumb f*ck," "Bitch" (about dogs, and said to both women and men), "Nigger" and "Cracker" (infrequently said by black characters), "Jack ass," "Punk ass," "Dumb ass," "Screw up," "Shut up," "Pissed," "Balls" (testicles) and "Moron."
  • The "cool" portrayal of the criminals in the movie may cause some kids to think that robbing banks, etc... is for the most part easy and without horrible repercussions.
  • None.
  • Just a tiny bit of suspenseful music occurs in a few scenes.
  • None.
  • Beyond what's listed below, one scene has a crowd of prison inmates repeatedly yelling "Bullsh*t," for which we didn't get a count.
  • At least 53 "f" words (6 used with "mother," 2 used sexually), 40 "s" words (not including the above), 2 slang terms for female genitals (the "p" word), 2 slang terms for male genitals (the "d" word and "p*cker"), 19 asses (4 used with "hole"), 6 damns, 5 hells, 2 S.O.B.'s, and 4 uses of "G- damn," 3 uses each of "Oh my God" and "Jesus Christ," and 1 use each of "God" and "Swear to God" as exclamations.
  • Karen shows a bit of cleavage in a few outfits she wears.
  • Jack's ex-wife shows some cleavage.
  • A man tells Karen that "every bitch needs a bone" (at first referring to canines, but then quickly to her). He then says, "I'll give you a good bone" and comments about "letting the monster out..."
  • Jack and Karen undress in a hotel room (both down to their underwear -- and a bra for her). We then see them kissing on a bed (just a closeup from the shoulders up) and it's implied that they have sex (no nudity, sounds, or movement). She later comments that she "wasn't just looking for a f*ck...or for kinky sex" with a bank robber.
  • Looking through Ripley's house, one of Snoopy's men lifts up the mattress and holds up a pack of condoms.
  • We see Ripley's mistress in her underwear.
  • Kenny and a variety of other minor characters (Jack's ex-wife, Snoopy's sister, etc...) smoke as do some background characters in a bar and at a boxing match.
  • None.
  • That robbing banks isn't as easy or cool-looking as it might seem.
  • Police officers aim their guns at Jack while arresting him.
  • Jack hits a prison guard on the back of the head, knocking him out.
  • Prison guards shoot their machine guns at escaping prisoners, hitting (and presumably) killing them.
  • Buddy picks up Karen and forces her into her trunk with Jack.
  • Locked in the trunk of her car, Karen shoots at Jack and Buddy (who are outside the car), leaving bullet holes in the lid.
  • Opponents hit each other in several boxing match scenes.
  • A prisoner stabs another prisoner with a shank, causing some bloody puncture wounds.
  • Threatened by Snoopy's large prison buddy, Jack kicks this guy in the crotch and then hits him hard with a heavy book.
  • Snoopy crushes some goldfish (in a water-filled bag) belonging to Ripley.
  • An escaped con breaks some glass from a woman's door. Waiting for him, Karen slams him against the wall and then to the floor where she arrests him (and notes that he has a gun in his belt).
  • Although not seen, it's implied that Snoopy and his thugs kill several people during a robbery. Jack later questions whose blood is on his shirt, and we later see a homicide scene with two murder victims (and blood splatter on the wall).
  • A man tries to grab Karen (in a sexually violent way) and she hits him several times with a metal rod, knocking him to the floor.
  • Kenny aims his gun at Ripley's mistress.
  • Snoopy, Kenny and "White Boy" try to shoot open a safe with their guns.
  • Snoopy slaps Ripley and then hits him again.
  • We see Kenny in bed with Ripley's mistress (ready to rape her), but Jack comes in and shoots him dead.
  • A character trips on the stairs and accidentally fires his gun, killing himself.
  • Several characters get into a gun battle, and then a fistfight where they also struggle on the floor.
  • A person shoots another person several times, killing them.
  • A person shoots another person in the leg.

  • Reviewed June 23, 1998

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