When looking for originality in cinema, there really isn’t a whole lot of it out there. With constant remakes and sequels coming to the cineplex it’s always nice to see a hidden diamond in the rough, that one independent film that has something unique and special, even if it’s just going back to classic film roots. The heist film is one of those classic film roots. It’s hard to make a heist film that doesn’t borrow from something. Even Oceans 11, 12, and the soon to be release Oceans 13 seem to take the heist film and satirize it. I first heard about The Lookout the week before it was set to hit theaters. After that it was constant commercials on the IFC channel, but sadly this pet project of Out of Sight scriptwriter Scott Frank, might take awhile to gain a following but it is worth it.
The Lookout follows Chris Pratt (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an aspiring hockey star who makes the biggest mistake of his life when he drives without headlights on the eve of his prom. After crashing his car, killing two of his friends, and maiming his girlfriend, Chris has to write every little detail of his daily routine out or else forgets it. With his boss not seeming to understand him, his inability to get a girl, and his only friend being a blind man (Jeff Daniels) Chris seems to be on the downhill of life. That is until he meets Gary Spargo (Matthew Goode), a rough and tumble man who seems to understand Chris and takes him under his wing. Chris also meets the beautiful Luvlee (Isla Fisher), a former stripper who starts to fall for him. But when Chris gets in on Gary’s plan to rob the local bank, a bank that Chris just happens to work for, it starts to unravel his life. The simple task of being “the lookout” could end up costing Chris his life.
Taking the very simple idea of a young boy coerced into robbing a bank is simple enough, but its making the story unique and original is what truly makes The Lookout such a gem. The fast paced, tight thriller starts with the story of a troubled young man, forced to write down every detail of his life, blaming himself for the tragic accident that ruined lives and turns it into a strong character drama. The film doesn’t start as a bank heist; it develops the characters, allowing you to see why they do what they do, why they are the way they are. The interactions between the actors are electric and incredibly genuine. The dialogue is intelligent and it doesn’t stoop to clichés to get its point across. It also takes the very simple idea of a shootout and turns it into something that seems fresh.
I can’t really seem to say I disliked anything about The Lookout, mainly I had some nitpicks that I felt could have been mentioned. Actress Carla Gugino shows up as Pratt’s parole officer for one scene then is never mentioned again. It would have been nice to see her maybe show up a couple more times and end any the arc they had mentioned. Also Isla Fisher’s character could have been developed more thoroughly, she just disappears in the last half of the movie never to be seen again, and it seemed her relationship with Gary and her backstory could have been delved into quite a bit more.
Where The Lookout ultimately shines though is in the acting, this is very much an ensemble drama. Joseph Gordon-Levitt takes another role that allows him to show off what amazing talent he has. After watching him in Brick and this, I can honestly expect to see this young man win an Oscar someday. He really is the new Ryan Gosling and this film allows him to flow. Isla Fisher of Wedding Crashers fame takes a more dramatic role as the beautiful Luvlee Lemons (yes that’s her name). While her role isn’t as fleshed out as I would have liked, you can see she is just as damaged as Gordon-Levitt’s character, Luvlee is a girl who is easily misled, very childlike and Fisher does it well. Jeff Daniels does another good job as the blind friend Lewis. He is the comic relief for a lot of the movie and has some great one-liners. The actor that I think really drove the film home was British actor Matthew Goode. I’ve adored Goode in his nice guy roles in Chasing Liberty, Match Point, and Imagine Me & You but it was amazing to see the complete 360 he makes in the role of Gary Spargo. He even goes so far as to grow facial hair, shave his head and lose his British accent, which if you didn’t know he was British you wouldn’t think he was with this role. Spargo is not only your classic villain, he’s a man who idolized Pratt and really wants to see him fall. Goode delivers all the lines with a hint of evil, even when he’s being nice. Expect way more to come from this wonderful actor.
The Lookout is a film that you have to see. If you enjoyed Brick or just like heist films in general this is very much your film. It has a great, unique story, impressive acting and just an all-around originality. Don’t miss out on this film; it’s definitely one of a kind.