Steven Soderbergh‘s 1998 film Out of Sight is among the best of many, many things. It’s one of the best crime films of the 1990s, which was a pretty big decade for the genre. It’s one of the best pieces of entertainment adapted from the work of prolific novelist Elmore Leonard, joining the movies Get Shorty and Jackie Brown, and the TV series Justified. It’s, in my opinion, the best that Steven Soderbergh has directed, and features the best on-screen performances from George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez. And the two of them share one of the best sex scenes ever in cinema.
Despite all that, Out of Sight was a flop upon its release in June of 1998 — 25 years ago this week — although its reputation has solidified over time.
The film was told, as was so fashionable in the crime cinema of the time, in a non-linear way, as writer Scott Frank capably adapted Leonard’s work. Out of Sight starred Clooney as a career bank robber, first seen escaping from a prison in Florida. Throughout, he’s being chased by U.S. Marshal Karen Sisco (Lopez) until the two discover they like one another.
Eventually, flashbacks fill in more of the backstory. Clooney’s Jack Foley, during a previous prison stint, helped out white-collar criminal Richard (Albert Brooks), who goes on to promise him a legit job once they’re all out, only to have Richard offer to make him a security guard (you’re a bank robber. That’s not a very marketable skill.”).
So Jack and his sidekick (Ving Rhames) resolve to rob Ripley’s house in Michigan, which he has told them consists of millions worth of uncut diamonds. But their fellow former inmate Snoop (Don Cheadle) is trying to beat them to the diamonds. The showdown in the mansion leads up to a wonderful sight gag:
Of course, the film’s most famous scene has Clooney and Lopez pausing her pursuit for a “time out”:
Out of Sight also has a fantastic supporting cast, including Rhames, who gets some great character detail (he has to call his sister to confess various sins), and Steve Zahn as a shifty criminal. Michael Keaton briefly shows up, as the same Leonard character he also played the previous year in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown. And Brooks plays against type as a criminal, as he would about a decade later in Drive. There’s also Viola Davis, Samuel L. Jackson, Nancy Allen, Catherine Keener, and many others.
Clooney would go on to once again play a charming criminal in all three Ocean’s movies, also for Soderbergh, who would soon enter his most prolific period, making The Limey in 1999, both Erin Brockovich and Traffic in 2000, and Ocean’s Eleven in 2001. Aside from a brief retirement, Soderbergh continues to work just as often today, most recently directing last year’s outstanding Kimi and this year’s satisfying Magic Mike’s Last Dance.
Out of Sight received deserved Oscar nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film Editing, although it won neither. But it’s fair to say the film has enjoyed a better reputation over time than Shakespeare in Love, which took home the Best Picture Oscar that year, as well as most of the films that beat it out at the box office that year.
Out of Sight is streaming on Peacock.
CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.