The last four years have been the worst “retirement” for Steven Soderbergh, the idiosyncratic genius behind too many great films (and just as many weird, experimental films) to count. In those four years, after he announced his retirement from filmmaking on the heels of Side Effects, Soderbergh directed every episode of his turn-of-the-century hospital drama The Knick – arguably the best cable series to never get its full due – and the terrific HBO Liberace film Behind the Candelabra. He also produced a half dozen projects, one of which was Magic Mike XXL, which he served as cinematographer (under the common pseudonym Peter Andrews).
Point being, Steven Soderbergh never really retired, and we should all be happy that he’s “officially” backed off that sentiment with this weekend’s Logan Lucky. The notoriously rebellious filmmaker has built a decades-spanning career making whatever sort of film tickled his fancy at any given time, and some of them (Erin Brockovich, Traffic, Ocean’s Eleven) were huge hits. But he’s never been keen on the typical hardline marketing techniques of Hollywood, which is why so many of his films come and go without much time to consider their greatness.
Of all the masters in the industry, Steven Soderbergh has the most substantial catalogue of underrated greatness. Here are the five I feel are sorely in need of a revival among the collective masses…
5Out of Sight
It was a tough call between Side Effects and this, Steven Soderbergh’s ultra-cool Elmore Leonard adaptation. Some circles properly recognize Out of Sight as one of the director’s masterpieces, but in this viewer’s opinion it still doesn’t get its due as one of the only truly great Pulp Fiction wannabes that inundated the cinematic landscape of the late 90s.
Here is George Clooney, at the height of his post-ER-superstar-in-the-making powers, rattling Leonard’s words off a brilliant and expansive supporting cast that includes Ving Rhames, Steve Zahn before we even knew him, and romantic lead Jennifer Lopez, when acting was still her priority. Soderbergh captures the wry wit of Leonard’s story, and perfectly balances it with the cynicism and shocking moments of violence, and Clooney and Lopez singe the screen with their chemistry. Out of Sight was released in the middle of the summer movie season in 1998, and didn’t even make its budget back ($37 million against $48 million). It has since found an audience, and time will only further benefit its appeal.