The Lookout

The Lookout


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Scott Frank, better known to audiences as the scriptwriter of films such as Minority Report, Get Shorty and, er, Little Man Tate, makes his directorial debut here with a moody, noir-style thriller, based on his own story. For a first timer, it isn’t a bad attempt, although the script has issues that should have long been corrected by such a veteran – perhaps multitasking isn’t his thing?

It certainly isn’t something that his central protagonist Chris Pratt (Keanu Reeves-alike Joseph Gorden-Levitt) can cope with. Once the star of the school ice hockey team, he has been reduced to writing aides-memoire in a notebook since the fateful night he took his buddies for an spin in his car and trashed it, causing the death of two and leaving him with severe head trauma. To help him get over his "sequencing" problems – telling stories from beginning to end – and other issues, such as bouts of rage and feelings of disorientation, he makes regular trips to the Independent Life Skills Centre. It is here, some while back, that he hooked up with his blind roommate Lewis (Jeff Daniels, stealing every single scene he is in) who, of course, in the tradition of this sort of film, may be physically disabled but can see deep into Chris’s soul.

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Somewhat implausibly, despite all his issues, which seem to include "zoning out", Chris has got his driving licence back, something that even in a country of automatic vehicles is crushing the pips of credibility until they squeak. He has, in an equally questionable plot move, been made the cleaner at the local bank, where he is the last man standing every night, except for the occasional donut drop by the local sheriff. That there is no security guard seems odd, but Frank’s script is all about serving its story, so he is clearly expecting us to cut him some slack.

Like the audience, however, an old acquaintance of Chris’s (Brit actor Matthew Goode, playing very passable American) has clearly spotted the flaw in this mode of employment and sets about insinuating himself into the cleaner’s life, with the help of femme fatale pole dancer Luvlee Lemons (Isla Fisher), with a view to making some cash.

This leads to a raft of script contradictions. On the one hand, Frank carefully sets up Chris’s illness, neatly showing us how inept he can be and how easy it is for him to become lost in terms of argument. Yet, on the other, Chris is frequently shown to be quick witted when it comes to thinking on his feet, seemingly able to concoct a plausible lie at the drop of a hat, despite going against the grain of all we’ve been shown before.

There are character problems, too. Poor old Luvlee vanishes into the ether three-quarters of the way through without so much as a by-your-leave and a subplot involving Chris’s family gets far more screentime than it deserves. Frank keeps us at arm’s length from the characters, too. Despite setting them up quite well, he gives us little to latch on to emotionally, meaning we aren’t invested sufficiently in them by the time the thriller instalment of the plot arrives.

Directorially, this isn’t a bad debut, although everything takes an age to get going. When things finally do hit their stride Frank uses some nice camerawork – the best of which is reminiscent of Fargo - to mount the tension and, thanks to the tighter parts of the script, gives the audience just enough information to help us see the way things are going, while not being able to fully make out the ultimate destination.

Certain scenes feel too glib and stagey, as though they’ve been doused with pop video gloss – particularly the snow, which surely had its own assistant, make-up artist and trailer. This is compounded by a rather pedestrian score by James Newton Howard, more suited to a TV movie than a big screen outing.

Entertaining enough, but unless you jot down plot points in your notebook you’ll have forgotten it by next week.

Reviewed on: 01 Nov 2007
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A young man with head trauma gets involved in a heist.
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Director: Scott Frank

Writer: Scott Frank

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jeff Daniels, Matthew Goode, Isla Fisher, Carla Gugino, Bruce McGill, Alberta Watson, Alex Borstein, Sergio Di Zio, David Huband, Laura Vandervoort

Year: 2007

Runtime: 99 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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