Lookin' to Get Out

Time Out New York Project: Issue #717, June 25-July 1, 2009


Warner Home Video, $19.98

For all intents and purposes, the 1982 Las Vegas buddy comedy Lookin’ to Get Out should have been lost to time. This tale of two ne’er-do-wells, Alex (Jon Voight) and Jerry (Burt Young), on a chaotic sojourn through Sin City was a tremendously troubled production, ultimately felled by rumors, a ballooning budget and a bastardized original release. It’s also been taken as the first sign of the career downturn of ’70s cinema darling Hal Ashby, director of Harold and Maude and Being There.

This extended cut of Lookin’ is only now seeing the light of day thanks to Nick Dawson, author of the recently published biography Being Hal Ashby. Dawson discovered the redo on a research jaunt; Ashby reportedly fine-tuned it in secret and gifted the results to the UCLA film archives. Despite its overall lightheartedness, it now seems like one of the director’s major works.

Alex and Jerry are an indelible duo, meaning that they are as much figures of pathos as of fun. Their broad tics—Alex’s con-artist slickness and Jerry’s shoulder-shrug befuddlement—slowly drop away to reveal the all-too-human souls underneath. Vegas is their playground, a place of bright lights and dark alcoves where fleecers (Bert Remsen) and old flames (Ann-Margret) await.

Ashby captures it all with a master’s eye, allowing each chase scene, seduction and brawl to speak, in its own time, to Alex and Jerry’s prickly yet profound friendship. The disc is light on special features (including only a cursory retrospective documentary and a theatrical trailer), but Ashby and his performers’ work are attraction enough.—Keith Uhlich