Still on a J-Lo kick, I picked up a copy of Out of Sight (1998), which Wikipedia classifies as a “crime film”, but I tend to think of more as a rom-com. Go figure. Lopez plays ‘Karen Sisco’, a smart, strong, beautiful young U.S. Marshal with the worst taste in men, who finds herself falling for a charming, handsome, hapless bank robber after he kidnaps her during a prison break! To be fair though, the con in question, ‘Jack Foley’, is played George Clooney, so you can totally see the attraction. It was a little alarming to learn that the scene where they’re forced to share a car trunk together, and find themselves bonding over classic movie references, required over forty takes to get right! This was because the director, Steven Soderbergh, kept trying to capture it all in a single shot, despite the fact the actors had to work through eight pages of uninterrupted dialogue! Eventually he realised that the scene was actually killing the flow of the film, and re-imagined it with a more forgiving mixture of two-shots and close-ups. So a tip of the hat has to go to Clooney and Lopez for reproducing the sort of natural, sparky chemistry that was needed to sell the instant attraction between their characters, after so many grinding reshoots. You often get the impression from the gossip rags that Lopez is some sort of crazy, demanding diva… but if that had been me in her place, I’d have walked off the set sometime around the twentieth take and not come back until they’d sent me a basket of muffins the size of a car. And triple-chocolate muffins, at that!
I was also surprised to read how poorly this film performed at the box office. If the combined pulling power of the leads weren’t enough, you’ve also got the fact that it was based on an Elmore Leonard novel, and has several ties to Tarantino’s oeuvre, with Michael Keaton reprising his role as ‘Agent Ray Niccolette’ from Jackie Brown, a great supporting turn by Ving Rhames (of Pulp Fiction fame) as Foley’s pal ‘Buddy’, and an awesome uncredited cameo by Samuel L. Jackson. On top of all that, it’s really, really, really good. So what’s not to like? Disappointingly, it doesn’t even warrant a proper entry in the Chick Flick book I bought a while back, and is only mentioned in passing along with a bunch of other “women-be-sleuthing” movies. I would have thought it was an ideal date movie, since it so ably combines a nail-biting heist story with sizzling romance and snappy comedy beats, providing a satisfyingly “happy ending” without bending over backwards to stretch your credulity. But apparently the majority of the cinema-going public did not agree with me. Despite the low turnout, it still managed to spawn a TV-spinoff starring Carla Gugino in the lead role… but that got canned after a single season, and has yet to be released on DVD… which is a shame, because Sisco is exactly the sort of female protagonist I could have happily crushed on over multiple seasons. Dammit.
I think Lopez does a great job with the role, portraying the character’s vulnerability and tenderness along with her stern, no-nonsense, kick-ass-itude. She may be a fool for love, but she’s definitely not a pushover! Pretty much every man who tries to “tussle” with her ends up on the floor, screaming in pain… even the one she’s almost-sorta-dating! As for the rest of the cast, there’s an effective cameo by Nancy Allen (of Robocop fame) as ‘Midge’, a maid working in the house that Foley and his accomplices attempt to plunder… and a very endearing turn by Catherine Keener (of Living in Oblivion fame) as ‘Adele’, Foley’s amiable ex-wife, who is inadvertently endangered by her former husband’s nefarious associations. A sizeable chunk of her showcase scene ended up in the “deleted” section, but there’s still more than enough of Adele in the finished article to make you totally dippy for her. I also have to give props to Steve Zahn (of Happy, Texas fame) for his performance as ‘Glenn’, a rather unreliable stooge and prison-mate of Foley’s. In the wrong hands, the character could have been quite annoying and unsympathetic, but somehow Zahn manages to make you care about what happens to him, even when he’s betraying his friends and selling out to psychopaths!