I’m a sucker for a good heist film. I’m a sucker for anything Steven Soderbergh directs. I’m a sucker for a good Elmore Leonard adaptation. I’m a sucker for non-linear storytelling. I’m a sucker for Don Cheadle.
Is it any wonder I continually go back this film time and again?
When George Clooney was at the height of his powers, still the sexiest man alive (because, I guess, no one had yet laid eyes on Chris Hemsworth), he struts into the role of Jack Foley, career bank robber. He’s a cool as he is suave, enough of a hard-luck backstory and redeeming characteristics to buy him pathos from the audience. And he’s escaped from the Everglades Correctional Facility with a little aid from his buddy–well–Buddy (Ving Rhames) and his not-so-simpatico-cohort Glenn Michaels (Steven Zahn).
During the breakout, he happens upon U. S. Marshall Karen Sisco, and, rather than surrender, winds up locked in a trunk with her–just go with it–where, despite being on opposite sides of the law, they radiate with sexual heat.
Now headed to Detroit for his next big heist, Sisco hot on his trail (and maybe hot for him too), he and Buddy run into an assorted cast of characters, including the villainous Maurice “Snoopy” Miller (Cheadle), who is intent on muscling in on his score.
The action culminates in fast-paced, shoot-em-up third act, but not before Foley and Sisco again encounter each other in a Detroit bar, decide to take a timeout, pretend they are just two strangers, meeting on a business trip. It’s as touching and romantic as anything this side of Tod falling for Vixy.
And the heat between these two.
Pro tip for acting coaches. You want to explain what connection between two actors is? Show them this film.
Pro tip for science teachers. You want your students to understand advanced chemistry? Show them this film.
This is J-Lo’s best performance, with Hustlers, granted, coming in a close second. Clooney came close to the same level with Oceans 11, but not quite. For that matter Soderbergh came close to the same level with–yup–Oceans 11, but not quite.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Michael Keaton’s brief cameo as Karen’s air-headed FBI boyfriend Ray Nicolette. Or that the same Ray Nicolette appears in Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, played by Keaton. Or that Jackie Brown is based on another Elmore Leonard novel, Rum Punch. I could make all sorts of speculation about how that means there’s a shared universe and in the same world that has a Vincent Vega, where Hitler was killed in a movie theater, there’s also a low-level bank robber named Jack Foley walking around. But I speculated last month on another couple of franchises which might share a universe, and that just made my head hurt.
Suffice to say this film is the epitome of why we make movies, why we watch them. People who are better looking than us are doing things (and people) that we could never do, all while delivering dialogue cooler than anything that will ever come from our lips.
“Or once,” Karen Sisco replies.
Films like these don’t come around all that often either.