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Film review: Out of Sight

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It's still too early to tell whether it was a good idea for George Clooney to quit his day job. But it is looking a little less like it was a bad one.

The "ER" star hasn't exactly set the cinematic box office on fire with his previous big-screen work ("The Peacemaker," "One Fine Day"). And it's unlikely that "Out of Sight" is going to be his big breakthrough, even though it's probably his best big-screen role to date.

That's because the film is very R-rated and displays a Tarantino-like wit, as well as his characteristic use of profanity and violence. But unlike Tarantino's plodding "Jackie Brown," this blackly comic and sexy thriller does its source material, yet another Elmore Leonard novel, justice.

In fact, the movie is almost on par with the best recent Leonard adaptation, "Get Shorty." (The two films even share the same screenwriter, Scott Frank.)

Actually, if not for a serious lull in the midsection and some troublesome lapses in taste, it might have bettered it. For one thing, the pairing of Clooney and Jennifer Lopez yields dynamic results.

Clooney stars as Jack Foley, an escaped bank robber determined not to go back to prison. Jack's also planning one last robbery — ripping off crooked billionaire Richard Ripley (Albert Brooks) — but he's being pursued by Karen Sisco (Lopez), a beautiful federal marshal he kidnapped and set free.

To his regret, he can't get her off his mind long enough to plan out the crime properly. Worse still, aside from longtime friend Buddy Bragg (Ving Rhames), Jack's got partners he can't trust, including double-dealing ex-con Maurice "Snoopy" Miller (Don Cheadle, from "Bulworth") and Glenn Michaels (Steve Zahn, from "That Thing You Do!"), a car thief who can't keep a secret.

Giving away any more of the plot would spoil some of the surprises, and there are a few of them. Perhaps most surprising is the nearly straightforward direction from Steven Soderbergh ("Gray's Anatomy"), who makes much better use of flashbacks here than Tarantino did in "Jackie Brown."

It would be unfair to overlook Frank's wry dialogue, which is one of the film's major strengths, but where "Out of Sight" really gets it right is in the casting, especially its two extremely appealing leads.

Make no mistake about it, Clooney and Lopez make their odd romance believable, setting the screen afire every time they so much as look at each other.

There are also some scene-stealing supporting turns from Zahn, Brooks and Dennis Farina, who plays Karen's disapproving father, as well as a series of odd cameos, including Michael Keaton, who reprises his "Jackie Brown" role (unlike the novels upon which they are based, the two films are set in different decades).

"Out of Sight" is rated R for profanity, violent gunplay and fist fighting, gore, vulgar references and double entendres, a brief sex scene and use of racial epithets.