Out of Sight

Steven Soderbergh is interested in how things work. He's directed several movies about people with unusual jobs that mainly focus on what it means to be employed as, say, a male stripper or as a professional fake girlfriend. He's covered the drug trade from the makers to the users to the police who are trying to stop it. The bulk of each one of the Ocean's movies is devoted to planning the heists in thorough detail, with the big action set piece of the actual heist being saved for the end of the movie.

Elmore Leonard, on the other hand, is more interested in character. His stories have plots, but the plots often take a back seat to atmosphere, because the sort of people he writes about are interesting but they aren't always super motivated or capable of concocting a grand scheme. Leonard's writing proves that he has an eye for detail, but it's details about what sets one low life thug apart from another, not what sets one petty crime apart from another.

Out of Sight, then, is more of an Elmore Leonard movie than a Steven Soderbergh movie. Yes, Soderbergh did direct it, but it has all the hallmarks of a Leonard story and fewer of the touches that make a Soderbergh movie feel like a Soderbergh movie.

To start off with, all of the planning of the big job in this movie boils down to “let's show up at a rich guy's house with a gun”. In fact, the big job is almost completely forgotten for big stretches of the movie. The bulk of the middle of the movie is about a love story between a cop played by Jennifer Lopez and an escaped convict played by George Clooney, with only periodic mentions of the big score.

Their romance is another element that feels more like Leonard than Soderbergh. Leonard was justly praised for his dialogue, and the dialogue between Lopez and Clooney is so charming that it grounds what would otherwise be a pretty ridiculous plot device. In contrast, their romantic kismet reeks of the sort of Hollywood magic that Soderbergh generally eschews. He often casts big movie stars in his movies, but then has them do things that undercuts their star power, whether that's having Matt Damon gain act like a moron in the Informant or hiding Rob Lowe's face underneath truly frightening make up in Behind the Candelabra. Yes, he sometimes he does let his stars show off their charisma, but it's a lot more tongue in cheek in the Oceans movies than it is here. Here it's charisma for charisma's sake.

Soderbergh's calling cards are underserved in other ways in Out of Sight. Soderbergh is fond of tricky editing, and there are a few sequences that occur out of order, but they are just enough of them to be disruptive and not enough of them to be stylish. Soderbergh tends to favor a fast pace in his mainstream movies and a more meditative pace in his artsier films, but the pace of Out of Sight is pure Leonard – roundabout until the end, when it all goes down startlingly quickly. The score from frequent Soderbergh collaborator David Holmes is one of the few touches that marks the movie as a Soderbergh joint.

None of this is a complaint against the movie, really. If you like movie stars being movie stars then this is a good place to look; everyone turns in a memorable performance, particularly Don Cheadle, who is equally adept at being hilarious and menacing. But it is to say that you should be aware that this movie has a lot more in common with other Leonard movies like Get Shorty or Jackie Brown than it does with Ocean's 11, even though this is from the same director and star. As someone who loves Soderbergh but is a bit indifferent to Leonard I was a bit indifferent to this, but your mileage will probably vary.


Winner: Draw

Out of Sight on IMDB