Released in a compromised form in 1982, Lookin’ to Get Out found Hal Ashby back in full on comedy mode, taking on a jaunty, semi-improvised project written by Al Schwartz and Jon Voight, who also starred as a degenerate gambler who heads out to Vegas with his partner (an extra affable Burt Young), in an effort to hit it big and avoid punishment from the hoods to whom they owe gambling debts. The film was loosely scripted and feels that way in many spots, and features a seven year old Angelina Jolie in her big screen debut as Voight’s daughter. The lovely Ann-Margaret made a colorful supporting turn, while the film has a tone that is mostly comedic but dramatic in a few key spots to keep it grounded. This was one of the last big movies of Ashby’s career, which was compromised by drug and alcohol abuse and repeated fights with producers and executives, resulting in a huge disagreement with the studio and loss of final cut over the picture. As legend has it, some years ago, Voight was at a speaking engagement at USC, and discovered that a version of the film being shown to students was somehow Ashby’s original cut, which had been considered gone, lost, or buried. Voight brought it to the attention of Warner Brothers, who then released Ashby’s director’s cut on DVD in 2009. While certainly not a bad film, it’s entertaining and frequently smart and funny, but it doesn’t have that special spark that made his films from the 70’s so unique. But for fans of this filmmaker, it’s most definitely worth seeking out.



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