In The Lookout, Joseph Gordon-Levitt continues his trend of breaking away from being that kid from 3rd Rock from the Sun moving towards being a serious dramatic presence on the silver screen. It is a trend that really began back in 2004 with his stunning performance in Mysterious Skin and continued quite nicely in 2005 with Rian Johnson’s indie sensation, Brick. Levitt is quickly establishing himself as an actor with serious range and a keen eye for great roles in smaller films.
This time around he takes on writer Scott Frank’s directorial debut. Frank, an established screenwriter (The Interpreter, Flight of the Phoenix and Minority Report are among his credits), tells the story of Chris Pratt (Levitt), a promising young man whose life is all but taken away from him after a horrific car accident caused by his own carelessness. Years removed from the accident, Chris is forced to live with the fact that he was responsible for the deaths of two friends and his own injury, a head trauma that left him without the ability to put events into sequence. Chris spends his days going to therapy and his nights cleaning the floors at a small town bank, the latter of which makes him a perfect target for a group of bank robbers, lead by Gary (Matthew Goode). Gary preys on Chris, using his hopeless situation and the charms of Luvlee (Isla Fisher) to convince Chris to join their plot to rob the bank.
This is one of those films that has taken me a while to warm up to, but I can honestly say that the more I think about it, the more I really did enjoy it. It came out of SXSW this year as the movie to watch and while it may not gather major box office receipts going up against the Will Ferrell ice skating romp Blades of Glory, it is definitely worth a look. Joseph Gordon Levitt is quickly becoming a favorite of critics and fans alike. His performance in Brick was absolutely phenomenal and his performance here is something along the same lines. He is very carefully carving out a niche for himself by taking roles that are a little more off-the-cuff and require range, something that he possesses in volumes.
Alongside Levitt are some equally as strong performances, particularly on the part of Jeff Daniels, who plays Chris’ blind roommate Lewis. His look reminded my eerily of Jeff Bridges as “The Dude” in The Big Lebowski, only less drunk and more blind. Daniels lends a tasteful air of comedy to an otherwise dark plot. Matthew Goode is also very solid as Gary, the smooth talking shyster that lures Chris into a web of deceit. He has an edge about him that we first saw shades of in Match Point, an edge that is more fully realized in this particular role.
What binds it all together is the script by writer/director Scott Frank. While it is a somewhat formulaic and predictable thriller, it never ceases to be engaging. Even though logic tells us how Chris’ journey must end, we are still interested in sticking around to find out exactly what happens. The dialog is razor sharp, the characters are rich and did I mention that Isla Fisher plays a former stripper turned contract whore? That by itself is enough reason to see this flick if you are like me. If you aren’t like me, then you will find plenty of other reasons to catch The Lookout, as while I don’t think it lives up to the mammoth hype from SXSW, it does not fall short of being entertaining.