The Lookout – 2007 (Dir. Scott Frank)
The Lookout is an easy movie to really like, but not quite love. For one thing, it’s a really smart film; no, it’s not really breaking any ground in it’s story (it’s about a bank robbery in a small town), but how it tells the story is very sharp. It also boasts some great performances by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Jeff Daniels. Having a solid script, nice visuals and great actors is one thing; but making them all elevate the material is another. And that’s where the intelligence of the film comes into play.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character is disabled. Gordon-Levitt’s character suffers from brain damage caused by a car accident in the years before the action of the film; he has amnesia. In the hands of a less tactful writer and director, this could be a recipe for disaster. In the hands of a less capable actor, too, this could come across as embarrassingly patronizing. Instead, it serves to make the film better. Gordon-Levitt’s performance is sympathetic, but never pathetic. The audience feels his frustration, but he’s never given a free ride because of his handicap. If anything, his disability makes the film’s antagonist (Watchmen‘s Matthew Goode) seem more cruel, rather than Gordon-Levitt more innocent.
The film also takes it’s time, and allows us to get to know the characters. Scenes run, if anything, a little too long, rather than a little too short. The film feels longer than it’s 99-minute runtime, but that’s an asset more than a burden. The camera isn’t afraid to linger on a shot. Bu it’s the strength of the acting, even smaller parts, that does the heavy lifting here. Gordon-Levitt, Daniels and Goode all turn in stellar performances. Deputy Ted doesn’t have much screen time, but Sergio Di Zio turns makes them work. Likewise, Greg Dunham’s brief performance as Bone is menacing without being over the top.
The Lookout, the first feature written and directed by Scott Frank, does wear it’s influences on it’s sleeve. The snowy small town setting and menacing henchman recall elements of Fargo, and the amnesia angle reminded me of Memento, but the film stands on it’s own merit. And frankly, if you’re going to borrow liberally from anyone, it may as well be Christopher Nolan and the Coen Brothers. Regardless, it’s a very strong film and a worthy entry in the canon of contemporary crime films.