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Movie Review: The Lookout – Confused, Noirish Tale Falls Short

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Written by El Articulo Definido

When Chris Pratt (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), star hockey player, and spoiled rich kid, is out cruising with friends on a dark highway, on prom night, with no headlights, and crashes the car, his life is drastically changed. Two of his friends have died, one will no longer speak to him, and he doesn't remember the accident. Actually, he doesn't remember much at all due to his closed head injury. He is forced to keep notes in a small notepad, and his whole apartment is labeled with instructions.

In fact, a lot is lost. Isla Fisher's character, Luvlee, is either bait or really falls for him, but it is all unclear. She delivers lines that make her seem both in awe of the legendary Chris Pratt and yet vengeful at the same time. And as quickly as she has arrived, and then driven the plot, she is gone. Was this film edited to hell, or is it just sloppy? Hard to tell.

The Lookout is really well-acted, but the directing, from Scott Frank, sort of steps on itself. The film is never really sure if it's a character study of a man with a closed head injury, the people in his life, and how he and they deal with their problems, or if it's a bank robbery film. It never truly feels like either. The bank heist plot is a really slow build that doesn't really get interesting until the third act, and the film is paced so slowly that at 99 minutes it feels like two hours. This mostly lies in the fact that it doesn't begin its "plot" until more than halfway through.

I really wanted to like this movie; the trailer looked good, and I like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, but it just wasn't everything I hoped and dreamed it could be. Perhaps my expectations were too high, and visions of Brick were dancing in my mind's eye. It's not Brick, and doesn't quite feel as comfortable within the genre of noir, as does the aforementioned. I needed The Lookout to find its identity and become one or the other of its dual personalities.

There were things that I liked. I did like some of the shots, even if they do confuse the mood. And there is a major standout acting performance by Jeff Daniels. His character, Lewis, was blinded by overexposure to meth fumes, and now serves as best friend, roommate, and sort of mentor to Chris. Daniels brings an air of acceptance to his character's fate. He is comfortable with himself and has accepted his own hand in that fate. Chris, on the other hand, hasn't accepted himself, still showing signs of that selfish rich kid, which makes it so hard to feel sympathetic when he makes the really bad decision of helping out in a bank robbery where he works as a janitor — his self-imposed "pennance" for killing his friends.

I'm sort of left confused as to why it is that this is getting a wide release. It feels more like straight to DVD, and then ready for cable viewing on a hung-over Sunday afternoon when you can't reach the remote.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS