© 2007 Ray Wong
Part heist-thriller, part coming-of-age, and part drama, The Lookout is a small film that aims big.
Chris Pratt (Gordon-Levitt) is a promising high school athlete. When tragedy strikes, it leaves Chris with more than a scar and head trauma. Four years later, Chris is still trying to cope with life and his loss. Now sharing a crummy apartment with a blind guy Lewis (Daniels), Chris takes a job working as a night janitor at a local bank -- the only thing he can do. Needless to say, he hates his life.
One night, he meets Gary Spargo (Goode) at a bar. Gary is a charismatic man with confidence to spare, and he seems to know Chris from his glory days. Chris starts to hang out with Gary and hooks up with a former erotic dancer Luvlee (Fisher). All is good until Chris discovers that Gary and his gang are planning a heist at the bank. Gary convinces Chris to become part of the team, as a lookout. But Chris soon changes his mind, and everything goes wrong.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt (3rd Rock from the Sun, Shadowboxer) grows up nicely to take on this highly moody role. The film rests heavily on his shoulders, and he does a fine job portraying a confused, sensitive young man who is trying to figure out his past from his future, right from wrong. Jeff Daniels (Infamous) is solid as Chris's laid-back roommate. Even though he's blind, he sees better than Chris and takes care of him. And Matthew Goode (Imagine Me & You, Match Point) plays against type as the rough, manipulative but charming criminal. His intensity and Daniels's sense of humor help lift the film from its heaviness.
Isla Fisher (Wedding Crashers) is fine as Luvlee, the girl who seduces Chris. She shows enough vulnerability and sweetness to offset the otherwise two-dimensional character. Sergio Di Zio (Cinderella Man) is excellent as the goofy but kind Deputy. His character has tragedy written all over it.
Written and directed by Scott Frank (The Interpreter, Out of Sight), the story is actually rather straightforward and simple. The storytelling style and technique, however, are not necessarily conventional. Yes, the story begins with an intense prologue that sets everything in motion. Then the pace slows down and we wonder: where is the plot? (If you haven't read the premise, you wouldn't know what to expect). The pace starts to pick up with Chris realizes what's going on, but that's halfway into the movie. There's a lot of characterization. At times it feels like Frank is trying too hard to build these characters, and make them different and unique. They feel manufactured. From the down-and-out hero to the good (but blind) roommate who philosophizes everything, from the girl who falls for Chris to the happy-go-lucky Deputy whose wife is expecting, these characters are in many ways cliched, and you know where they're going and what they will end up doing.
I feel like there are two movies in one, here. The first half works as a personal drama, and the second half a crime movie with a few twists and a predictable ending. There are a few plot holes, and at one point I wonder: why go through all that trouble? The motivation doesn't make sense. For example, the heist could have been easily carried out without Chris Pratt. So why all the charade and then a dramatic reveal. And with Chris's physical and mental problem, why would the DMV allow him to drive? That's a little hard to believe. And then there's that Memento-like subplot about Chris's memory loss -- he needs to keep notes to remember the sequence of events. It serves the plot but, again, it feels contrived.
This is Scott Frank's directorial debut, and it's obvious. The pacing needs tightening, and the camera work is inconsistent. But once the action picks up in the second half, Frank is able to sustain the tension and build up to an interesting ending, albeit rather predictable. The stereotypical characters do serve a purpose, and there's a good adrenaline rush at the end. But there are way too many loose-ends and I have a hard time sustaining my disbelief; it also gets a bit melodramatic. So while I was over all entertained by the film, I wasn't too impressed. But look out, Hollywood is going to feed us more of these memory-lapse stories until we say, "Enough already."
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jeff Daniels, Matthew Goode, Isla Fisher, Carla Gugina, Bruce McGill, Alberta Watson,Sergio Di Zio
Director: Scott Frank
Writer: Scott Frank
MPAA Rating: R for language, violence and sexual content
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Script – 6
Performance – 7
Direction – 7
Cinematography – 7
Editing – 7
Production – 7
Total – 6.9 out of 10