The Lookout is mostly slow-moving and pretty quiet, which makes the action that much more exciting when it quickly advances, and the denouement that much more satisfying. If one can disregard the tidily wrapped-up ending and some convenient coincidences, the film is a successful piece modern noir featuring a sweet-faced kid and his blind, lovable buddy. Screenwriter Scott Frank delivers a solid product with his first directorial attempt. And in fact, when Frank's script seems weak, the direction and performances step up to fill in the gaps.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt (a.k.a. "that kid from '3rd Rock From the Sun'") plays Chris Pratt, a teenage jock whose promising future is dashed when he crashes his car, leaving him with a brain injury that effects his short-term memory. Now Chris works as a janitor in a bank, his hubris replaced with guilt and anger. It doesn't help that Chris's family is unabashedly ashamed of his disability. Chris's main source of support is his blind roommate, Lewis, played by a refreshingly comedic Jeff Daniels. With his protective good-nature, Lewis has confidence in the duo's futures. But of course, it's not that simple, so
However, skeezy bank-robbing Gary Spargo (Matthew Goode) targets Chris as his new best friend, needing Chris's after hours access to the bank and recognizing his obvious desire for power in his life. Ultimately, Chris becomes so entangled in the heist plan that by the time he starts having second thoughts, it's too late. At that point in the film, the tension mounts rapidly, but then after the climactic scene, everything neatly wraps up, and the movie's over.
The thing that separates this noir thriller from the pack is that the main characters' disabilities heighten the stakes considerably, making us root for the characters more fervently than we otherwise would. More than just good vs. evil, there's the sense of injustice that comes from the strong exploiting the weak. Whether this was the intention or not, I left the movie with a new sensitivity toward the "handi-capable." The story's end is predictable from the start, but because it's the ending you're so earnestly hoping for, it doesn't feel like a cop-out. With this ending we can retain a belief in goodness prevailing, which is always nice.
Photos courtesy of Miramax