Monday, November 12, 2007

THE LOOKOUT - weak plotting offsets decent performances

After stand-out performances in MYSTERIOUS SKIN and BRICK, I'll pretty much turn up to any movie that Joseph Gordon Levitt stars in. It's a shame, then, that he should have patronised this severely under-cooked small-town heist flick.

THE LOOKOUT is directed by Scott Frank - the script-writer behind the the flabby, implausible and ultimately tedious political thriller, THE INTERPRETER. THE LOOKOUT is, if anything, an even worse script. The set-up is hopelessly derivative. Our hero, Chris Pratt, is a privileged former high-school sports star who crashes his car, kills his friends, and gives himself crippling mental disabilities. As a result, he finds himself patronised and dismissed by friends and family. Who will even notice such a helpless boy, let alone conceive of him as a criminal? All this has echoes of THE USUAL SUSPECTS and THE SCORE, of course. Moreover, Chris Pratt's mental difficulties manifest themselves in his difficulty with putting events and actions into the right sequence. He also suffers from gaps in his memory and narcolepsy viz. MEMENTO.

The film doesn't really work as a thriller: it's never particularly suspenseful. It's all too obvious that when a hot chick and a cool older guy schmooze Chris, it's because they want him to help them rob the bank he works at. It's also pretty obvious that he'll be suckered in by them. But while the movie is not suspenseful, it does work as a character study, at least for the first hour. That's all down to a typically solid central performances from Joseph Gordon Levitt and Jeff Daniels, as Chris' blind best friend. The movie also contains a surprisingly good performance by British actor Matthew Goode in a flawless American accent. Kudos to him.

But as the film went into "heist" mode in the final forty minutes, my patience wore thin. All the hard work of establishing Chris' complex relationships with his girlfriend and best friend was flushed down the toilet by a script that either forgets about them completely or uses them as plot devices. As the emotional anchor of the film was cut loose, the structural flaws became obvious. Those wanting the plot spoiled can read more after the release information. Suffice to say, I left the movie theatre feeling peevish.

THE LOOKOUT was released in the USA, Spain, France, Iceland, Italy, the Philippines, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Hungary, Portugal, Mexico, Belgium, Argentina, Norway and Austria earlier this year. It is currently on release in the UK. THE LOOKOUT Is also available on Region 1 DVD.

SPOILERS FOLLOW: Why is Chris even allowed to drive a car? Why does the gang contain an older member who looks like a pastiche of the Peter Fonda character in GHOST RIDER? (A pastiche of a pastiche, really.) Why don't the burglars make Chris speak to "Deputy Donut" the second time he comes round. That would have prevented the shoot out and all that followed.

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