The Lookout
Director: Scott Frank
Writer: Scott Frank
Producers: Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum, Laurence Mark, Walter F. Parkes
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jeff Daniels, Matthew Goode, Isla Fisher, Sergio Di Zio, Greg Dunham
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 99 min
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reviewed by Andrew Dykstra
     The Lookout is a noteworthy directorial debut by Scott Frank (writer of Out Of Sight, Get Shorty and Little Man Tate, among others). In The Lookout, we are thrust into the world of Chris Pratt, a mentally impaired bank janitor who gets lured into an involvement in a heist at the very bank in which he works. It's a stock premise (and what isn't these days?), but Frank fleshes out enough depth in the characters to set it apart from other films in the genre.

      The Lookout is a reasonably smart and nuanced approach to the heist plot, especially in the handling of its protagonist. Pratt (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) isn't portrayed as a caricatured version of the mentally handicapped person that has been thrown about ad nauseum in recent mainstream films (Forrest Gump, I Am Sam, Sling Blade). He's not an ignorant innocent, a drooling invalid or an idiot savant. He's an otherwise normal guy in his mid 20s who was born into a wealthy family and was a star hockey player in high school. He now wrestles with a guilt over the violent nature of his handicap: a car wreck that he caused.

      In a treatment that smacks a bit of Memento, Pratt lives in a carefully constructed environment of rigorously followed routine, punctuated by written reminders that detail the simple directions of casual necessities like cooking and storing house and car keys. His roommate and only friend is Lewis (Jeff Daniels), a blind man whose no-nonsense attitude toward his deficiency helps Pratt come to terms with his own debilitations.

      Although Chris' physical coma lasted for days as a result of his accident, we sense that his emotional core has been deadened even after waking up in the hospital bed years earlier. His carefully guarded emotions have hidden a great burden of guilt that gradually gives way to a desperate need to reclaim a sense of self. That element is what I responded to most in the film.

      The plot points involving Pratt's assimilation into the heist scheme are only as effective as they are because of our sympathy for him. The sections involving the robbery itself are decent (though the two "action" sequences made me wonder how low the movie's budget really was), but the character study of Chris Pratt was the underlying strength of the entire film.

      Joseph Gordon-Levitt is this generation's Downey, Jr. or Depp. His maturity as an actor translates Chris Pratt's physical and emotional injuries very sensitively and believably. After strong showings in Mysterious Skin and Brick, Gordon-Levitt maintains his cred well in his performance for The Lookout. Jeff Daniels is an actor who I've grown to admire as time goes on and his understated portrayal of the blind Lewis only increases that appreciation. His subtlety adds a refreshingly toned down note to the "best friend/mentor" role.

      Filling out the rest of the notable supporting performances are Matthew Goode as the cocksure but oddly vulnerable head of the thieving gang and Bruce McGill as Pratt's patronizing father.

      The film does have its fair share of weaknesses. One or two storyline threads seemingly come to no conclusion and are abruptly abandoned or simply aren't adequately explained. There also appears to be some unnecessity in various scenes throughout that could've maybe been shortened or cut-out completely to help the story keep pace.

      Still, there's plenty to like about The Lookout: a talented writer/director, a strong set of actors, a dark flavor and a keen, atmospheric score. Although the titular theme of the film is a smaller part of the whole than it would have you think, that fact does not take away from how satisfying it is at its end.

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Links: - full cast and crew
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