Rex (Peter Coyote) and Nixie (O-Lan Jones) are on a mission, and skulk around the outskirts of the city at night until they find an open window, enabling them to spy on a topless woman torturing a man tied to a chair, as all the while they continue a discussion only with their minds. Sticks of dynamite are very important to them, and they plan to deploy theirs at this location, but once they do they have to find an escape route and a handy taxi looks like the best bet. However, the driver can read minds as well...
Out was a experimental, absurdist drama that looked as if it had been based on some kind of agit-prop play when it had actually been based on a book by Ronald Sukenick, the script having been worked on by him and the director of this, Eli Hollander, for whom this was his only film until he made a short documentary many years later. Does that sound like a tense action thriller to you? Probably not, which might be why it consistently received such a bad reaction down the years from those hoping they were going to see that kind of thing when they got an art movie instead.
The reason they were fooled was nothing to do with Hollander, but the companies seeking to part you from your cash for a tape, or later, DVD of this. They changed the name to the misleading Deadly Drifter and made the cover look as if Peter Coyote and Danny Glover were leading some kind of strike force, when Glover was only in it for fifteen minutes at most and Coyote was far from an action hero. If you recall that he changed his surname from Cohon due to a fantastic peyote trip he once had, then you might have a better idea of why he took this role as it would have made more sense should you be under the influence.
The plot was deliberately digressive, so once you had got used to the idea that Rex had met up with the other members of his mysterious cell, and worked out from a message spelled out by alphabet soup letters that their leader was dying, you could have settled in for an hour and a half of obscure spy shenanigans. That was until Rex and Nixie were ambushed by the same cell who appeared to have had a personality change, further sticks of dynamite were thrown, and Rex woke up in the countryside. So already Hollander was going out of his way to confound audience expectations, and if that was his intention then Out could only have been judged a roaring success.
If he was hoping for something mind-expanding and revelatory, then no amount of edited in stock footage of blue whales was going to fix that. Not for want of trying, but every time, say, Rex got to communing with a Native American mystic (Grandfather Semu Haute), any possible learning process was out of the question when the film would suddenly become oddly self-conscious and start looking like a send up - of itself. So when Rex and Nixie get together again, they are having an intense conversation about, er, the powers that be and how they relate to their mission or whatever, when suddenly Rex lights his dynamite, it doesn't go off so they decide to get married, returning for a honeymoon meal of boiled cow's tongue. Then Rex is too full to consummate the union, so Nixie shuts herself in the cupboard and... well you get the idea, Out was willfully bizarre, but the visuals remained downbeat and ordinary even if the characters were not. Hard to recommend, then, and not what many were expecting. Music by David Cope.