Rated R - Running time: 2:02 - Released 6/26/98

Though its trailers make it look like another generic, shoot-em-up action flick, Out Of Sight turns out to be smarter than that. Written by Scott Frank, based on the book by Elmore Leonard, and directed by Steven Soderbergh, the film owes a lot of its style to those produced by Quentin Tarantino, focusing heavily on characterization and quirky cinematography and not just pounding out a linear storyline.

Jennifer Lopez is Karen Sisco, a federal marshal who witnesses a prison break at Glades prison in Miami. The leader of the breakout is bank robber Jack Foley (George Clooney), and after he overpowers and disarms her, the two of them end up in the trunk of the getaway car, driven by Jack's friend Buddy (Ving Rhames). During their trip in these close quarters (and in one of the film's more flimsy plot elements), she can't help becoming attracted to her charming and gentle captor, who treats the trunk ride like a candlelit evening at his apartment.

But when she escapes, it's back to business. Against the wishes of her father (Dennis Farina) and her FBI agent boyfriend (Michael Keaton, in an uncredited reprise of his role from Tarantino's Jackie Brown), Karen begins a manhunt with a couple of different reasons for pursuing Jack. Obviously she has to apprehend this criminal, but she also just wants to see him again. Meanwhile, Jack, who should be concentrating on disappearing, can't get the comely marshal out of his mind, and dismays his accomplice by wanting to arrange a reunion with her.

After his escape, Jack and Buddy team up with another ex-con named Snoopy (Don Cheadle) to steal a few pounds of uncut diamonds. The "ice" is hidden somewhere in the huge mansion owned by Richard Ripley (Albert Brooks), a wealthy banker whom they know from prison (he served time for ripping off his customers). Thanks to the loose lips of a rather loopy dude named Glenn (Steve Zahn), Karen finds out and plans to meet them there, so our lovers can have their armed rendezvous.

Clooney, known for his charm and rugged good looks, has them both set on full power in this movie. The sexual tension between him and Lopez is palpable; it is what makes us overlook the unlikelihood of a U.S. marshal falling for a criminal and vice versa. But what really makes this a good film is director Soderbergh's choice to allow all the characters to be fully explored. The plot is like a by-product; it is not the main objective of the movie. What we are supposed to see is the interaction between these several people, and this we do.

This film's timeline skips about from present to past and back again, forcing the audience to assemble the pieces slowly, just like Karen has to. Though there are elements of the story that are a bit far-fetched, engaging work by Clooney and Lopez (and also Rhames, Cheadle, Zahn, and Brooks) make this movie better than average. ****

Copyright 1998 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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