Reviews

The Lookout

4

In traditional film noir, the hero is all too often a patsy: a stiff-in-waiting at the mercy of fate, greed and a dangerous broad. (See Out Of The Past, Double Indemnity and too many others to mention.) In his sharply scripted neo-noir The Lookout, however, writer-director Scott Frank throws another obstacle into the path of his protagonist – a debilitating head injury that makes him fly off the handle and lack all inhibition, as well as leaving him forgetful and utterly flummoxed by the simplest of everyday tasks.

The result of a car crash for which he was wholly responsible, and the reason why this former high school hockey stud now cleans floors at a small farmers’ bank in Kansas City, this condition makes Chris Pratt (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) an easy mark for Gary Spargo (Matthew Goode), a charming thief who’s out to empty the bank’s safe. Gary needs a lookout for the job, and Chris – seduced by solicitous doll Luvlee Lemons (Isla Fisher), the lure of cash and the prospect of life away from his over-protective blind roommate Lewis (played by the scene-stealing Jeff Daniels) – more than fits the bill. We, of course, can tell he’s being set up. But will Chris’ frazzled brain work it out before it’s too late? All in good time…

Having adapted the novels Get Shorty and Out Of Sight for the big screen, first-time helmer Frank is more than comfortable with genre conventions – so much so that, for the opening half of this witty, suspenseful thriller, he subordinates them completely to a coolly compelling character study. Outwardly calm and inwardly broiling, Brick star Gordon-Levitt is wholly fine as the troubled soul haunted by feelings of guilt and his fleeting recollections of the youth he was. Match Point actor Goode, meanwhile, is sensational as Gary, a charismatic asthmatic whose smooth insinuations suck Chris, and us, into the cut-throat world of small-time crime. Only the jarringly unexplained disappearance of one of the film’s key characters as the story nears its climax detracts from a polished debut that would make Elmore Leonard proud.

 

Verdict:

Retooling Memento with a hip young cast, Frank's debut feature steeps its familiar elements in graveyard humour and indie cool. Plot quibbles aside, the result both grips and moves; it'll be your lookout if you miss it...

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