The Story: Chris Pratt (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a standout high school athlete, saw his dreams shattered after a fatal car accident left him with brain damage. Now a few years later, he grapples with trying to live a normal life, rooming with a fellow handicapped man in the blind Lewis (Jeff Daniels) and working nights as a janitor for a bank. Then one day he is befriended by former schoolmate Gary Spargo (Matthew Goode), who offers Chris a very interesting proposition.
The Good: The directing debut of screenwriter Scott Frank (who worked on movies such as Get Shorty, Out Of Sight, Minority Report, and The Interpreter) gives the bank heist story an absorbing retelling, although to a lesser extent than last yearís superb Inside Man. The writing throws in a few interesting twists and turns by telling the story from the perspective of a character with memory problems, sort of like a watered down version of the phenomenal Memento. However the real star of the film is actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who proves he ranks right up there with Shia LeBeouf as one of the most talented actors of his generation. There is no doubt he has the ability to carry a movie on his own, which is the main reason why the film is able to work as well as it does. Expanding on the work he previously showcased in Brick, he makes Chris a complex character, portraying his vulnerabilities, desires, and inner conflicts in riveting fashion. Of course his co-stars do a good job at bringing their characters to life as well. Jeff Daniels does a great turn at giving us an additional viewpoint of a disabled man (although he isnít entirely convincing as a blind man in a few scenes), and is able to throw in several humorous moments. Matthew Goode also does a good job at elevating his character from the standard run-of-the-mill villain that one usually expects in a movie such as this.
The Bad: While the overall script is strong, it is not without its set of problematic flaws. One of the movieís earlier scenes involves Chris talking to his counselor, who is oddly never seen from again. The subplot involving Isla Fischer doesnít go anywhere and is then awkwardly dropped altogether when the action starts to heat up. The story makes a big deal of Matthew Goodís character having both asthma and a sinister henchman, which comes across as something out of a lame James Bond movie. The filmís final showdown also isnít as climactic or well executed as it could have been, probably a result of Frankís limited directorial experience.
The Verdict: The Lookout managed a measly $2 million during its opening weekend, a tragically low amount for a movie this good. After watching the film, it struck me as this yearís Brickónot only for the fact that both star Joseph Gordon-Levitt, but also because both under-the-radar flicks give fresh takes on old genres, involving a web of intricate characters while incorporating dark undertones. Hopefully once this is released on DVD, it too will be able to develop a cult following much in the same way Brick has been able to do. Until then, the box office continues to be dominated by largely lackluster films, leaving the laudable ones left out in the cold. Tragic.