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Overall Rating
4.47

Awesome54.69%
Worth A Look: 39.06%
Just Average: 4.69%
Pretty Crappy: 1.56%
Sucks: 0%

8 reviews, 16 user ratings


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Lookout, The
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by Peter Sobczynski

"A Good, Solid Film That Could Have Been Great."
4 stars

Intelligently written, smartly directed and studded with good-to-great performances from every member of its eclectic cast, the first two-thirds of Scott Frank’s “The Lookout” is a sterling example of contemporary neo-noir. The problem with the film is that while the last third never quite goes entirely off the rails, it lacks the cleverness and confidence that was so clearly on display in that opening hour and it begins to drift away into a mess of plot threads that are never adequately resolved. It isn’t a fatal blow but for those who find themselves caught up in the story up until that point, they will be disappointed to discover that a film that held the promise of being the equal of “Fargo” or “Memento” turns out to be only slightly better-than-average.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Chris Pratt, a once-promising child of privilege whose entire life changed in an instant when a prom night joyride ended with an accident that left two people dead, a third missing a leg and him with a brain injury that has severely impaired his short-term memory capabilities. Now he spends his days undergoing therapy to regain his mental skills and his evenings working as the night janitor in a small-town bank and while he does have some ambitions–he tries to convince his boss to allow him to work some hours as a teller and his rich parents to loan him some money for a restaurant that he wants to put together with blind roommate Lewis (Jeff Daniels)–no one is willing to offer him anything of substance to back up their empty words of confidence.

One night, while drowning his sorrows in near-beer at a local bar, he runs into Gary (Matthew Goode), a guy who claims to have gone to the same high school where he once reigned as the BMOC. Now it is Chris who finds himself falling into Gary’s circle of friends, the most important one being a sexy dancer with the unlikely name of Luvlee (Isla Fisher). For a while, all is swell but it turns out that Gary and his pals have an ulterior motive for befriending him. A couple of times a year, the normally quiet bank that Chris works at swells with cash from local farmers and they have decided to rob the joint. This is no elaborate “Ocean’s 11"-style heist they are planning–it basically involves them walking in, cutting a hole in the safe and walking out during the night. The only hitch is that they need a lookout to keep a watch out for the local deputy who happens by every night and this is where Chris comes in. At first, Chris objects to the plan but Gary has correctly sized up his current woes and reminds him that “whoever has the money has the power” and that is about all I am going to say in order to avoid revealing any of the plot developments in store (although the trailer that Miramax has put together seems to do a pretty good job of that by itself).

As I said, the first hour of “The Lookout” is an unusually strong bit of low-key genre filmmaking. As a screenwriter, Frank (whose previous efforts have included the smart adaptations of “Out Of Sight” and “Minority Report”) has crafted a story that tells a crafty and complex tale without resorting to out-of-the-blue plot twists to keep things moving about. Instead, it unfolds at a deliberately measured pace that allows us to see the characters as fully-developed people instead of as caricatures who exist only to supply key plot details to our hero–even such seemingly ancillary players as Chris’s dad (Bruce McGill), his counselor (Carla Gugino) and the friendly deputy (Sergio Di Zio) are each given a moment that quietly and effectively give us a fuller picture of who Chris is today as well as the person he used to be–and is peppered with dialogue that is smart, funny and incisive without coming across as too smart, funny and incisive for its own good. (The best lines go to the Jeff Daniels character, who at one point hijacks a discussion of the origin of sandwiches by confidently proclaiming that “This ‘Earl of Sandwich’ thing is revisionist bullshit!) More importantly, Frank resists the urge to utilize Chris’s brain injury as nothing more than a plot device that can be turned on and off whenever the story requires it. As a first-time director, Frank keeps things moving along in a simple and straightforward manner that fits perfectly with the tone of the story and he elicits strong performances from the entire cast, especially Joseph Gordon-Levitt, whose work here, coming on the heels of his impressive turns in “Mysterious Skin” and “Brick,” should solidify his growing reputation as one of the best young actors working today.

At the same time, I must confess that after the delights of the first two-thirds of “The Lookout,” I felt that the concluding reels came off as somewhat disappointing by comparison. As the film marched towards its conclusion, I kept hoping that Frank would find a way of concluding the story that didn’t involve the use of shotguns but that is what we have been left with in the end. There are also a lot of potentially fascinating plot ideas that are introduced and then almost immediately abandoned. For example, I would have liked to know more about Chris’s relationship with his sexy counselor but she only makes one appearance early on and then is never seen again. We also are given hints to suggest that Chris, in his former life of privilege, may not have been the nicest person in the world (he tells a story about how he deliberately slashed a guy during a hockey game because he knew that he could get away with it) but this element is never developed in any meaningful way either. Finally, there is one seemingly major character (I won’t reveal which one) who winds up disappearing completely during the final scenes without a single word of explanation, an absence so jarring that we keep waiting in vain for the film to get around to acknowledging it. Although I have no way of knowing this for sure, I suspect that Frank may well have written and filmed scenes that would fill in these particular blanks and then decided not to use them for some reason. (If they do indeed exist, I can only hope that Frank and Miramax remember to include them on the DVD.)

Make no mistake, “The Lookout” is worth seeing, especially if you are a film noir buff, and it makes me curious to see what Scott Frank comes up with for his next directorial effort. I just wish that he could have figured out a way of concluding his screenplay that was as smartly conceived and executed as the rest instead of just letting it run on autopilot in the last couple of reels.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15610&reviewer=389
originally posted: 03/30/07 01:22:16
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2007 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/21/17 morris campbell good not great 4 stars
10/31/08 Shaun Wallner Well made. 5 stars
8/11/08 R.W. Welch Slow in spots with a too tidy ending; still worth a look. 4 stars
7/29/08 mr.mike Good , and the actors are fine , but movie could have been more compelling 4 stars
11/18/07 Brian Mckay Well written thriller with shades of Memento. Solid performances all around. 4 stars
10/23/07 Fred A great film very similar to fargo 4 stars
10/04/07 JT Lindroos Fine balance of modern and classic heist-noir. 4 stars
9/13/07 Monday Morning Very nice - 4 stars
8/18/07 fools♫gold It's DAMN ok. 100% 5 stars
7/02/07 William Goss Straight-forward crime drama is admirably modest, but curiously insubstantial. 3 stars
4/30/07 Charles Utter I went for the writing, but received even more rewards. Three act perfection. 5 stars
4/10/07 Adam Bad, bad writing. Lots of loose ends and bad characters: namely Bone and Deputy Donut. 2 stars
4/08/07 Mimi I LOVED "The Lookout". I'm trying to find out who played "Mr. Bones" though 5 stars
4/04/07 Ole Man Bourbon It's OK. Daniels and the other supporting guy are the highlights. 3 stars
4/04/07 Marty cast hit or miss, slow starter, sloppy writing lacking clarity. get over this movie 3 stars
4/02/07 Denise I saw this movie last night and it has been on my mind ever since. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  30-Mar-2007 (R)
  DVD: 14-Aug-2007

UK
  02-Nov-2007 (15)

Australia
  30-Aug-2007



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