Coming from a competent background with screenplay credit for, amongst others, Get Shorty, Minority Report and Flight of the Phoenix (2004) it was interesting to see what Scott Frank would make of his directorial debut with his own written work.
The Lookout introduces us to Chris 'slapshot' Pratt, so nicknamed because he is a very promising young ice hockey player. He comes from a wealthy family, he's liked by his peer group; it's apparent he has a prosperous and exciting future ahead of him. All that changes in one night. Showing a combination of bravado and stupidity he takes his girlfriend and two friends on a nighttime drive. Driving with his lights off to show his passengers the fireflies in their full glory all too late he notices directly in front of him an abandoned combine harvester. He and his passengers have no chance. We learn that his girlfriend survived with leg injuries and his two other passengers are killed.
A few years later we catch up with Chris and we find that he is left with a severe brain injury. The nature of his injury means that Chris cannot 'sequence'. Sometimes he forgets the natural order of routine duties, he openly talks about subjects other people would normally only think, he cannot remember what he has to do or what people have told him. To these ends he structures his life as best he can, continually carrying around a small notebook to remind him of what he has to do. He attends a school where he and people like him are trying to pull their lives back into some form of normality. He shares a flat with Lewis, an older guy who's been blind for many years after dabbling with chemicals he should have stayed well away from. Lewis provides the hands on support that Chris needs, keeps him from loosing it and advising him the best way he can about how to go on living his life.
To cap it all off Chris has the anguish and guilt of knowing that two of his friends have died due to his recklessness. He has lost his girlfriend who no longer wishes to see him. A promising career as a professional ice hockey player has been replaced by night porter to a local bank. Life's not that good.
It is due to his position at the bank that we are introduced to Gary Spargo and his band. Gary has plans for Chris. Taking advantage of Chris' mental state and current lack of self-confidence he persuades Chris that to get his life back he can help Gary in robbing the bank just after money has been deposited for all the local farmers. Chris is seduced by one Luvlee Lemons, one of Gary's group, and it is this final nail in the coffin which convinces Chris that perhaps he might once again be important, be loved. He agrees, the scene is set.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the younger one from Third Rock from the Sun, plays the part of Chris well. Even though we know that he is ultimately responsible for the death of two friends and ruining his girlfriend's life we can't help but feel sorry for him. Originally not knowing his background or the potential he had as these are revealed to us throughout the course of the movie the viewer wonders how Chris can ever come to lead a normal life again. Jeff Daniels (Lewis), the chef from Pleasantville, supports the role of Joseph well enough as the person who's come to terms with his disability a long time ago. Matthew Goode, playing Gary, comes across very well as first the person playing devils advocate to Chris' emotional shortcomings through to the vicious character he portrays towards the end. So far so good.
What lets the film down ultimately though is the story itself. It's just not credible. OK we can perhaps forget that although Chris is responsible for the deaths of two people that he has not been incarcerated or seemingly reprimanded in any way. Chris himself certainly has a number of issues to deal with but he still understands the difference between right and wrong. Would he so easily have risked his future yet again just to have the prospect of a relationship with the enticing Luvlee Lemons. Well with a name like that then perhaps but again I don't think so. Towards the climax of the film things deteriorate even further. Like many robberies this one doesn't quite go according to plan, however are the police anywhere to be seen in the aftermath? They obviously know the robbery has taken place, they again know that Chris was the night porter and is now mysteriously missing. Do they stake out his residence? No! Does Chris return there later? Yes! Obviously in this small town there's far more important crime fighting duties that are keeping them occupied.
So there it lies. A screenwriter who has certainly produced the goods on more than a few occasions in the past I feel has let himself down badly on this his first outing as a director. Whilst the start to middle of the film has some interest both with the characters and developing story, there are far too many plot holes to make this believable. Worth a watch, but could have been so much better.
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