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Out Of Sight - Character/Dialog/Charm

Based on a novel by Elmore Leonard

Written by Scott Frank

Directed by Steven Soderbergh

Sisco: I’m a sales rep, and I came here to call on a customer, but they gave me a hard time ’cause I’m a girl.

Foley: Is that how you think of yourself?

Sisco: As a sales rep?

Foley: As a girl.

Sisco: I don’t have a problem with it.

It’s this kind of repartee that makes the Out Of Sight screenplay stand out among peers. I haven’t read the novel, but it has been said that the dialog remained mostly untouched. And if so, this was a smart move because it is truly great.

Out Of Sight is basically a love story wrapped inside a crime story. Jack Foley escapes from prison and while doing so, kidnaps agent Karen Cisco and spends a long ride with her inside the trunk of a stolen car driven by his pal Buddy. They release her and she makes it her mission to catch him. But sparks have been ignited and both crave more of each other. It’s just that Karen’s attraction is accompanied by her desire to capture him as well.

The conversation between Foley and Cisco in the trunk is fun because it shatters expectations…they’re not talking about crimes and prison, and their current situation, he’s trying to pick her up and gets her chatting about films.

Foley: You're sure easy to talk to. I wonder -- say we met under different circumstances and got to talking, say you were in a bar and I came up to you -- I wonder what would happen. Karen: Nothing.

Foley: I mean if you didn't know who I was.

Karen: You'd probably tell me.

Foley: I'm just saying I think if we met under different circumstances...

Karen: You have to be kidding.


Foley tries to get back to where it was working...

Foley: Another one Faye Dunaway was in I liked, Three Days of the Condor. Karen: With Robert Redford, when he was young.

Foley: Yeah...

They lie there a moment, think about that as we hear THE CAR SLOWING DOWN, coasting, then bumping along the shoulder of the road to a stop.

Karen: I never thought it made sense, though, the way they got together so quick. Foley: Really.

Karen: I mean, romantically.

The scene sure is a nod to that famous romance from Three Days Of The Condor.

When they meet up later in the story and decide to indulge in a “time out,” they spend the night together furthering the impossible attraction. The above dialog is from the opening of that sequence, right after Karen has rejected several pickup attempts by some corporate guys.

After the time out, Foley pursues the uncut diamond heist at Ripley’s home in Detroit. For this, he has to partner up with Maurice and his goons, one of whom is Glenn who has crossed over. This of course doesn’t go as planned, and people get shot.

In a final showdown, Karen arrives before the local police and shoots Foley in the leg, and apprehends him...she’s made her mind up….duty before love. Or has she? In a final button, she drives Foley back to Glades prison in Florida, but on the ride is also Hejira Henry, a well-known escape artist…what is Cisco hinting at?

In Out Of Sight, the characters drive the plot. Much else has been said about this film. The charm, the cool vibe, the sexiness, the humor. Soderbergh’s great direction, and of course the cast, which is incredibly likable and makes this film fun to watch.

The protagonist Jack Foley is a criminal. But he is a guy with heart. A romantic. And he’s not violent. We like him because he’s human. When Maurice, the thug in Lompoc tries to shake down the white-collar whale Ripley, Foley steps in.

Foley: Yeah I got a problem. This is the dumbest shakedown in in the history of dumb shakedowns. Three hundred bucks for a pillow?

Maurice: That’s right.

Foley: Must be a really soft pillow.

Maurice: Faux goose down.

It’s exchanges like these that make this so fun. We don’t expect incarcerated criminals to talk about faux goose down pillows.

While the opening scene where Foley gets arrested misleads a bit about his smarts, later in a flashback we see that it was a kneejerk reaction to Ripley offering him a low-level security job instead of something bigger and more significant which he was led to believe back in prison. Foley robs the bank out of anger. And later when he’s chatting with Cisco he brags that he holds the record for most banks robbed. To him robbing a bank is second nature. It’s also a fun way to throw in a bit of exposition.

We are given just enough information about each of the characters to be invested in them. Karen has a close relationship with her father who gifts her a handgun for her birthday, but doesn’t approve of her relationship with separated (but still married FBI agent Ray Nicolet). Dad invites her to come work with him, “you’d meet doctors, lawyers – nothing wrong with them if they’re divorced. Why settle for some cowboy cop who drinks too much and cheats on his wife? That's the way those hotshots are, all of 'em.”

Another thing that stands out is the focus of Out Of Sight. It’s tight, there’s no fat. Fun characters in interesting situations.

Differing from tone, this story has charm. Without being syrupy or trying too hard, each of the characters brings a unique charm and likeability we can’t help to root for them all. Cop and criminals. Even the supporting characters are charming, from the bumbling Glenn with his nighttime shades, to Foley’s pal Buddy who calls his sister after each transgression. In the hand of a lesser writer, these may have come off as silly or gimmicky. But not so.

Reading it was fun too. Of course, the film imagery floated about as I was reading…but the script itself was a breeze. Of course, the source material was great, so it only proves once again that the writing is at the core of successful movies.


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