Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Lookout

Scott Frank | 2007 | 99 min | US

Neo-urban-dirtbag noir from the guy who wrote the underrated Out of Sight + the shameful mess The Interpreter. Frank knows a few things about how to make great character driven thrillers as well as how to ruin interesting ideas by piling on the drama. Fortunately he opted for the former style in his directorial debut. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Chris, a young man coping with severe memory impairment following a horrible car crash which left two of his closest friends dead. He fills his days with menial labour, therapy classes, + few relationships to speak of. When a charming + mysterious dude (with a foxy redhead in tow) befriends him, Chris finds himself manipulated into taking part in robbing the small town bank he works for.

It's a solid cast all around, with Gordon-Levitt continuing to surprise with his understated style. The highlight in this one is Jeff Daniels, who does a terrific turn as Chris' blind roommate and provides a few good laughs. The characters are not overdrawn. We know as much about the supporting characters as we need to. Sometimes this means nothing more than "that guy looks like he wants to shoot something." Economy works for this film. I wouldn't have had any interest in an extra forty minutes to illustrate the thieves' prior childhood trauma or blah blah blah. The result is a clean, simple narrative with an interesting lead character + a solid plot. The storyline does concentrate on Chris' mental impairment + uses his "sequencing exercises" as a way to frame the film + climax, but it avoids being gimmicky. If anything The Lookout feels like a throwback prior to the desperately clever noir reinventions of the last fifteen or twenty years.

I would have preferred to have gone into it never having read anything about The Lookout beforehand. The word "masterpiece" was being thrown around in some reviews. I think the recent drought of crime films coloured some perceptions + caused some critics to be a bit too generous with the praise they heaped on this one. Or maybe they accidentally watched + reviewed Brick again. This is not a masterpiece. It is not brilliant. Still, this is a movie worth watching + I look forward to seeing what Scott Frank will deliver next.

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