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Ghost Canyon

'The Lookout'
(Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jeff Daniels, Matthew Goode, Isla Fisher, Carla Gugino, et al / DVD / R / 2007 / Miramax)

Overview: Acclaimed screenwriter Scott Frank (Out Of Sight and Get Shorty) makes a mind-blowing directorial debut in The Lookout, a gritty, high-tension crime thriller starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt (TV’s Third Rock From The Sun, Brick), Jeff Daniels (RV) and Isla Fisher (Wedding Crashers). Chris "Slapshot" Pratt (Gordon-Levitt), whose once-bright future has been dimmed by a severe head injury, is a night janitor at a bank. Lonely and frustrated, Chris falls prey to a con man’s seductive promise of romance and a better life, and agrees to help rob the bank where he works.

DVD Verdict: Within the traditional crime drama genre, it has become increasingly difficult to find serious minded films that don't play as "hip and ironic." Add a young leading man to the equation, and it's twice as likely that you'll end up with a movie filled with artifice and self-awareness. In fact, reading the description of "The Lookout," I was sure that this picture would be just another film where clever one-liners were more important than generating actual suspense and drama. I couldn't have been more wrong! "The Lookout" is a tough and believable entry in the arena of heist films. Bolstered by a powerful lead performance by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, this film is both true to the conventions of crime genre and surprisingly different. The film succeeds with strong character development and provides an intriguing twist on the traditional protagonist.

Here, Gordon-Levitt plays a man coping with severe memory loss, control issues, and occasional motor skill inconsistencies. Sounds scary, huh? But don't worry, this is a real character dealing with real head trauma issues--not some cliche'd portrait or movie-of-the-week caricature. As a former "golden boy," Gordon-Levitt struggles to adjust to his disability. But he's also trying to cope with a monstrous grief--the car accident that impaired him (he was driving) also resulted in the death of two others. One day, he meets a mysterious stranger who claims to know him and seems to accept him in his present condition. Excited to belong, to be normal--he is drawn into a new world of friendship, women, and living life free and on the edge. But he soon questions the motives of his new friend as he is pulled into a plot to rob the bank in which he works. What follows is a hard edged story with real consequences - a riveting and suspenseful drama made even stronger by its attention to characterization.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt seems intent on becoming a serious thespian as opposed to just a big "star." With smart and unusual roles, he has certainly set himself apart from most actors in his age group. With "Mysterious Skin," "Brick," and now "The Lookout"--Gordon-Levitt has put himself on a short list of performers who can be counted on to make interesting choices. These diverse performances demonstrate a great versatility, a willingness to take chances, and (most importantly) the opportunity to really showcase what a great actor he has become. But "The Lookout" also benefits from a great supporting cast. Jeff Daniels gives an understated, humorous and quietly moving performance as Gordon-Levitt's blind best friend. And I found Isla Fisher ("Wedding Crashers") to be enchanting--complicit and innocent at the same time, what might have been a stereotypical role is refreshingly free of cliche.

I thoroughly enjoyed "The Lookout." One small note--the skeptic in me wondered how Gordon-Levitt was mentally (not to mention legally) able to handle a car due to his circumstances. In all honesty, it's unlikely that he would have been licensed based on what happened and on his current state of health. But it's a small point in an otherwise exemplary film. Smart, tough, and unexpected - "The Lookout" works as a caper, as a drama, and as a character study. A remarkably complex entry into what has become a fairly routine genre, this film packs an emotional punch and provides another great Gordon-Levitt performance. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.40:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Scott Frank and Director of Photography Alar Kivilo
"Sequencing The Lookout" Making-Of Featurette
"Behind The Mind Of Chris Pratt"
French and Spanish Subtitles

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