© 2007 by C.E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.
L to R: Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Chris and
Matthew Goode as Gary in
Photo Credit Allen Fraser
Courtesy of Miramax Films.

As a screenwriter, Scott Frank has scripted
several feature films that may be classified as
nouveau noir, stylish spins on the classic
SIGHT, GET SHORTY, and his current effort
THE LOOKOUT. From all reports, the latter is
an idea that has been percolating for several
years. Some have tried to reduce the film to a
log line or tie it to other similar efforts (for
example, "
but that negates some of the originality that
Frank (as a writer) brings to the genre. On the
other hand, Frank as a director --
is his debut -- does fall prey to some
of the problems of a first-timer.

The film opens with a four high school kids
riding in an open convertible in America's
heartland. Wealthy BMOC Chris Pratt (Joseph
Gordon-Levitt) is driving, and driving fast. He
cuts the lights so his girlfriend Kelly (Laura
Vandervoort) can see the countless fireflies that
speck the night. It's an impressive, even
romantic sight. But, driving in the dark does
have its dangers and the inevitable accident

Several years have passed and Chris, who
suffered a brain injury in the accident, now
shares an apartment with his blind mentor Lewis
(Jeff Daniels). For Chris, negotiating the simple
tasks of daily life (such as locating a can opener
in a kitchen drawer) can be fraught with pitfalls
and frustrations. He keeps a spare car key in his
sneaker, and he seems to lack that internal
censor that most people have, leading him to
blurt out inappropriate things, like telling his
case worker (an underutilized Carla Gugino) that
he wants to have sex with her while seated in a

Chris works as a cleaner in a bank and with the
aid of a sympathetic female teller (Alex
Borstein), he's been trying to learn how to do
her job. The manager (David Hubbard) is
dismissive, but that doesn't stop Chris. He's
also developed a friendship with the local
deputy (Sergio Di Zio) who arrives nightly to
share donuts and small talk.

Once Frank has all the pieces in place, he ups
the ante by introducing Gary Spargo (Matthew
Goode), who remembers Chris from high school.
They meet "accidentally" at a bar and Gary
arranges a hookup for Chris with former stripper
Luvlee Lemons (Isla Fisher). As the movie
unfolds, it becomes clear that Gary has an
ulterior motive and it involves Chris and the
bank. Chris gets tempted, particularly as Gary
manipulates him, especially by telling him
"whoever controls the money has the power."
This is pertinent to a subplot involving Chris'
wealthy father (Bruce McGill) and Lewis' dream
of opening a restaurant.

As I was watching
THE LOOKOUT, my interest
waxed and waned. The set up for the film
seemed to take eons. Frank overstuffed the
script with exposition, multiple subplots and
some seemingly unnecessary sequences. Just as
I was completely ready to dismiss the movie,
however, he switched gears and got to the main
story and I once again became engrossed in the

As a director, Frank has clearly been influenced
by the many strong filmmakers with whom he
has previously collaborated (Kenneth Branagh,
Barry Sonnenfeld, Steven Soderbergh) and that
for me was part of the problem. He has yet to
develop his own voice. There seemed to be too
much borrowing from others (throw in the Coen
brothers and Christopher Nolan, as well). The
film's tone was uneven despite the excellent
technical support like the cinematography of
Alar Kivilo and the production design of David

The cast is also exemplary. Jeff Daniels does a
good job as the wise roommate, Isla Fisher is
terrific as the
femme fatale, although when her
character disappears from the action, there's a
large hole left. Matthew Goode, who has
excelled in
tops himself as the nefarious Gary.
There's also strong support from Sergio Di Zia
as the loquacious lawman.

The film, though, rests on the shoulders of
Joseph Gordon-Levitt and he does an amazing
job in a difficult role. Having already proven his
capabilities in
even the otherwise dreadful
Gordon-Levitt is one of the best actors working
in movies today. He makes Chris into a complex
yet believable character. I just wish that the
filmmaker had been able to provide him with a
stronger showcase.

Rating:                   C+
MPAA Rating:        R for language, some
                        violence and sexual                
Running time:        98 mins.