In between all of the big-budget action adventures and horror films in theaters earlier in the year, one thriller slipped under the radar, but resurfaced on DVD a few weeks ago. “The Lookout” could have been nothing more than another cat and mouse crime caper, but this movie surprised me with a fresh premise, some truly interesting characters, and a strong redemptive theme. “The Lookout” might not be quite at the level of a few of the film noirs it honors, like “Memento,” but I still enjoyed it enough to recommend it as my DVD pick for this week.
The anti-hero in need of salvation in this tale is Chris Pratt (a fabulous Joseph Gorden-Levitt of “Third Rock from the Sun” fame), a teen who was once a popular, revered, but arrogant and selfish hockey player. One night while driving on a dark country road with friends, Chris pulls a crazy stunt that leaves two of his pals dead and his girlfriend permanently disfigured. Chris also sustains life-changing injuries including brain damage.
A few years after the accident, Chris is now a shell of his former self. He works as a night janitor at a bank because he is not capable of doing much else. He is estranged from his wealthy family and lives with an eccentric blind man (Jeff Daniels ) in a rundown apartment.
Depressed, guilt-ridden, and desperate to change his life, Chris becomes friends with a thug he meets in a bar. What Chris doesn’t realize is that the man is planning on using Chris as a “look out” for the cops when his gang of thieves robs the bank Chris works at. When Chris does realize what is going to happen, he puts into motion a string of events that finally gives him hope for the future–and a sense that forgiveness for the past is possible.
The best part of the movie is probably the impressive acting by underappreciated actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt. ( He was also in a little seen but awesome thriller, “Brick,” last year.) He reveals so much about the inner torture of Chris with a single gesture or look. Even more impressive is that first time director Scott Frank creates a gripping story centered around someone who is handicapped without being manipulative or melodramatic
The two big flaws of the movie though are Daniels’s overacting and the somewhat weak final payoff of the movie. Still, “The Lookout” is still an exciting and emotional journey while celebrating the worth of the human soul–no matter how damaged.