Lookin' to Get Out
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LOOKIN TO GET OUT:DIRECTORS CUT - DVD Movie
The Oscar-winning film-editor-turned-director Hal Ashby had an undeniable hot streak in the 1970s: from Harold and Maude to The Last Detail, from Shampoo to Coming Home, Ashby's ragged style and politically-aware attitude were all over movie theaters. Thanks to some combination of bad luck and personal demons, Ashby hit the wall as the '80s began--which is when he embarked on Lookin' to Get Out, a barely-released Vegas comedy. Based on a script co-written by Ashby's Coming Home star, Jon Voight, the film follows two hustling buddies (Voight and Burt Young) as they scramble to raise funds to pay off a gambling debt. They get comped a fancy suite when Young gets mistaken for an old pal of the hotel owner, but will their good luck hold when they stake a gifted blackjack player (Bert Remsen in rare form) to a run in the casino? Adding spice is Ann-Margret, as a former Voight flame who just happens to be the current girlfriend of the hotel magnate. (Footnote to film history: her daughter is played by a very young Angelina Jolie, Voight's real-life daughter, in her film debut.) The set-up is unremarkable, but the film is distinguished by a couple of factors. One is that in the early sequences, Ashby and cinematographer Haskell Wexler capture a splendidly gritty urban feel that links this movie to the American cinema of the 1970s. The other is the sheer unlikability of Voight's character and performance. It's one thing to offer a self-destructive exploiter who serves as a kind of anti-hero, and quite another to give him a vague, incoherent reading that dribbles away into Cassavetes-like floundering right before your eyes. Bizarre. The film's DVD release is a significantly altered version from the movie that flopped in 1982; Ashby had re-cut the picture and donated it to UCLA before he died in 1988, and that previously-unseen (even by Voight) cut is immortalized here. It's an interesting, oddball movie, the kind of thing that could only have been brought off, and indulged, by Hal Ashby. --Robert HortonSee all Editorial Reviews
- New interview with Jon Voight and co-screenwriter Al Schwartz
- Theatrical trailer
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The most exciting thing about it, beside its unusual mix of comedy, suspense and drama, is the abundance of really intense, convincing acting by the principals as well as such supporting players as Bert Remsen and Richard Bradford. One feels that the film not only comes close to the feeling of some of the best titles from Robert Altman, but often feels like some of the finer improvisational work in the films of John Cassavetes. There is an overriding atmosphere of suspense as the characters flee from dangerous characters to whom their reckless gambling has placed them seriously in debt. It is a comedy, but never a light, frothy, trivial one.
I have wondered if perhaps the glitzy "Vegas" look of the opening credits sequence might have skewed the reviewers' preconception about the sort of picture they were seeing. It has too often been the case that mistaken expectations about a film can severely distort one's perception of the whole thing. Personally, I interpreted the opening as a visualization of that flashy casino world that loomed so large in the misguided dreams of the central characters. As the story must progress through scenes of the characters' inner city street-level struggles for some time, before arriving at last in the gaudy glamor of Las Vegas, the opening also serves as a tasty hint of the more sumptuous production values to come.
When I first saw the picture, I was so engrossed with its unusual edgy mix of comedy and dramatic tension, that its flaws did not stand out for me. I am most eager to see the new extended edition, as I understand that it not only truly reflects the director's original intentions, but, on top of this, many of those involved in the production seem to feel so strongly that it is so much greater than the original theatrical release. Perhaps those of us who were already tremendously taken with the film will find the alterations in this version very enlightening. Clearly the film, as originally conceived was not, in the mind of its creators, properly represented by that first abridged edition.
Some research has indicated to me that Amazon's listing of the movie's format as 1.33:1 (full frame), fails to note that this DVD apparently features both a standard and a widescreen version. As one who not only seeks always to see the director's shot compositions in the intended aspect ratio, but looks forward to large screen projection of movies to properly the true theatrical experience, I was much relieved to learn that the listing appears to have been an oversight.
Based solely on my rich experience with the first release cut of "Lookin' to Get Out", I thoroughly recommend this picture to anyone seeking stylish, intriguing and refreshingly different film fare.