" The Oriental doesn’t put the same high price on life as the Westerner. Life is plentiful. Life is cheap in the Orient. And as the philosophy of the orient expresses it, life is not important. "
— General William Westmoreland, Hearts and Minds

MRQE Top Critic

Operation Condor

Jackie Chan meets Indiana Jones —Andrea Birgers (review...)

Chan borrows from Raiders

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Too often, a movie with lots of momentum loses it all at a crucial scene. It happened in this film when a character accidentally killed himself. The movie seemed to play up this gruesome scene as comedy, and my audience laughed at it. The pressure to find this scene funny was awkward and disquieting, and it made me respect the film much less.

But I was talking about momentum.

This movie has a lot going for it. For one, the story was written by Elmore Leonard, whose offbeat crime dramas inevitably make for good movies. Get Shorty, Jackie Brown, and now Out of Sight make an interesting trio of capers.

The style and look of the movie held together nicely. The simplified four-color poster for the movie tells us to expect a late sixties/early seventies action movie, and that’s what the movie delivers. It captured the feel of those great cops-and-robbers TV shows without parodying them, and without setting the movie in that era. The music, the sideburns, the liberal use of freeze frames and quick zooms add to the overall impression of a solid late-sixties crime drama.

The movie is actually set in the present. Jack Foley (George Clooney) is a smooth bank robber. He helps his victims relax and obey with his casual air. Unfortunately, his car doesn’t run so smooth and he gets sent to prison where he makes some connections for when he gets out. There’s Glenn (Steve Zahn), who has a tip on a big score, Ripley (Albert Brooks), who blabs about his wealth, making himself a target, Buddy (Ving Rhames), and Snoopy (Don Cheadle), who rules Detroit.

Foley breaks out of prison with the help of Glenn, but their plan is somewhat hampered by the appearance of a federal Marshall, Karen Sisco (Jennifer Lopez). She gets locked in a trunk with Foley as they make their getaway. Foley comes on to her and she isn’t entirely unreceptive. Finally she escapes, and so does he.

Foley works his way to Detroit, looking for one last big score while Sisco works her way there on his trail. She is looking for him both professionally and personally, and he won’t be too sorry if she catches him. The night before the big heist, they meet in a bar, and they try to work out which one will give up their career for the other.

And soon thereafter, the momentum dies an ugly gruesome death.

(To be fair, nobody else has criticized the accidental death scene and I can only assume that, for most people, it wasn’t a problem. Mentally give this movie an extra half-star if you’re not squeamish.)

Veteran editor Anne V. Coates used lots of good technique. There were a few places where the cut from one scene to the next makes a wry visual joke. For example, after Foley’s getaway car won’t start, Coates cuts directly to him in prison. When Sisco has Foley trapped, Coates cuts to a scene of her in the hospital with a broken nose. In addition, she had a good feel for the chemistry between Lopez and Clooney, letting their eyes linger just long enough before cutting to the other.

All in all, this movie is a step or two above average. The writing, chemistry, editing, and momentum probably made up for any deficiencies.