The '80s were not kind to Hal Ashby, who directed a number of enduring classics in the '70s (Harold and Maude, Bound for Glory, Being There), but whose career in the subsequent decade plummeted hard and fast. Among the flops that dominated Ashby's last years is Lookin' to Get Out, a collaboration with Jon Voight that was critically drubbed and mostly forgotten — notable only for featuring a 5-year-old Angelina Jolie in her screen debut.
But the story got interesting when Voight, through an Ashby biographer and Ashby's daughter, discovered there existed a different cut of the film — a cut that Ashby himself edited after being unsatisfied with the studio release. This extended version is about 15 minutes longer, and features radically different cuts and takes than the theatrical release, at least according to Voight.
Now released on DVD, it marks the first time the film has been available on the format in any version. I'm not familiar with the theatrical cut, but even with Ashby's hand guiding this one, it doesn't really work. The tone is consistent, and Ashby's intentions are good, but the script is rather lifeless, buoyed only by a manic, flailing performance by Voight that seems brilliant at some points, but sloppy at a lot more.
Voight (who co-wrote the script with Al Schwartz) stars as Alex Kovac, a compulsive gambler who wins $9,000 one night in a spurt of good luck, but then proceeds to lose it all, and another $10,000 on top of that in the next breath. In debt for a lot more than he's got, Kovac flees New York City with hapless buddy Jerry Feldman (Burt Young) to Las Vegas.
Kovac has a plan to get the money back — have his buddy impersonate a Vegas high roller at the MGM Grand, and use a con man to win big at blackjack. While there, he runs into former flame Patti Warner (Ann-Margret), whom he discovers has a child (Jolie) who is actually his.