The Lookout (2007) / Thriller-Drama

MPAA Rated: R for language, some violence and sexual content
Running Time: 98 min.

Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jeff Daniels, Matthew Goode, Ilsa Fisher, Carla Gugino, Bruce McGill, Alberta Watson, Laura Vandervoort
Director: Scott Frank
Screenplay: Scott Frank

The Lookout is perhaps most notable for the directorial debut of Scott Frank, the screenwriter for the Oscar-nominated Out of Sight, as well as other notable thrillers like Minority Report and Get Shorty. Once again, Frank dips into the noir-ish heist bag for inspiration, with mostly successful results. Good characterizations bolster this straight-forward suspenser into being something more meaningful than a twisty con job feature, as we root for the protagonist to prevail because we genuinely care about his welfare.

Gordon-Levitt (10 Things I Hate About You, Holy Matrimony) plays popular high school superstar Chris Pratt, whose blessed life takes a turn for the worse when he is involved in a car accident that leaves him with physical and emotional scars, as well as mental impairment as a result of severe head trauma. Four years later, Chris finds himself working the graveyard shift cleaning up during closing hours at a local bank, with dreams of becoming a teller all but dashed by his inability to form coherent thoughts for long periods of time. It's not an exciting existence, with his friends being mostly other people overcoming impairments, including his blind, middle-aged roommate, Lewis (Daniels, RV).

The excitement picks up when an old classmate of his, Gary (Goode, Match Point), befriends him, making him feel like the kind of guy he used to be again. Turns out that Gary has big plans for Chris, mainly involving knocking off the very same bank he works in, with his help, of course.

Old-fashioned though it may be, in this era of con men thrillers predicated on the notion of playing the audience with twists or trying to entertain us through adrenaline-charged action and quirky, comedic dialogue, it's a refreshing sort of throwback to character-based crime dramas of yesteryear. The events that transpire have a certain derivativeness to them that keep The Lookout limited in its freshness, though, as the man with mental difficulties who gets duped into becoming a patsy by opportunists has been used recently in the highly-memorable Memento. Good thesping abounds, with another strong role for Gordon-Levitt, who follows up another acclaimed old-school thriller in Brick with another piece worthy of a look for genre enthusiasts.

The characterizations are colorful, although broad for an earthy, Midwest vibe. The wise blind man (who can see what others cannot all too well), the ex-stripper (named Luvlee Lemons, no less) with a conflicted heart, the shrewd mastermind, and the dark and deadly silent partner (literally silent) are creaky, and a bit farfetched for a thriller that isn't trying to play flashy. Still, for the modest effort it is, it's skillfully directed and acted, with more than enough developments to hold your attention for its modest 98-minutes, right up to the tense, action-packed ending. As a thriller, it's par for the course, but it's the human element that makes it a work of merit for those who enjoy well-developed personalities and a bit of emotional substance injected in their formula crime dramas.

Qwipster's rating:

2007 Vince Leo