Out of Sight [1998]

Out of Sight was one of the best movies of 1998, but ironically this superior crime comedy was a box-office disappointment. Fortunately the movie can enjoy a long life on home video, where it can be savored by anyone who missed its original release. Making his best film since 1989's sex, lies, and videotape, director Steven Soderbergh pays tribute to the signature wit and intricacy of Elmore Leonard's novel, brilliantly adapted by Scott Frank, the gifted screenwriter who previously adapted Leonard's Get Shorty. The movie's a prime showcase for the talent and chemistry of George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez, respectively playing a career bank robber who's escaped from jail and the federal agent who falls for his charms while tracking him down. Soderbergh directs with confident visual flair, shifting time- lines (à la Pulp Fiction) to weave together subplots and maintain vivid focus on Leonard's splendid characters and smooth-as-silk dialogue. While the sexy repartée between Clooney and Lopez recalls the vintage interplay of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, Ving Rhames and Steve Zahn add ample comic relief as Clooney's accomplices. Dennis Farina is memorable as Lopez's father, and Albert Brooks is almost unrecognizable as a Wall Street crook whose mansion--and a cache of uncut diamonds--provides the setting for the film's climactic caper. As orchestrated by Soderbergh, the film offers a feast of plot twists and surprises, but it never loses track of its delightful characters and the clever wit that brings them so vividly to life. --Jeff Shannon

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