The Lookout marks Scott Frank’s first film in the director's chair. After penning Dead Again, Little Man Tate, Get Shorty, Out of Sight, Minority Report, Flight of the Phoenix, and The Interpreter (among others), Frank brings his experience from a writer’s standpoint, but puts on his inflatable armbands before diving into the directors’ pool.
In doing so, Scott Frank combines Christopher Nolan’s Memento and Frank Oz’s The Score as obvious influences in crafting The Lookout. With these two muses and their “handicapped” leads in mind, The Lookout is akin to Clark Kent; when the chiseled reporter takes off his glasses and simplistically changes the shape of his hair, it doesn’t fool, convince, or impress the audience. In short, The Lookout is similar to its inspirations but lacks a signature style or visual flair to aid in differentiation.
Of course, that is not to say that The Lookout is a poor mishmash and rehash of Memento and The Score, but considering both of these comparisons exist, they don’t work in The Lookout’s favor. Despite the hype surrounding Frank’s freshman effort, The Lookout is largely a letdown.
On the night of the senior prom, high school hockey superstar Chris Pratt (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) crashes his red Ford Mustang into a stalled combine — killing two and severely injuring himself. Left with a brain injury, Chris is forced to deal with non-physical damages like memory loss, sequencing issues, and the inability to keep his thoughts to himself. Chris keeps a notepad to constantly remind him what to do and where to be.
In addition to his personal counselor, a blind man named Lewis (Jeff Daniels) helps Chris sort out his issues and overcome his obstacles. Considering he is estranged from his parents, Chris lives with Lewis as a friend and fellow disabled. The pair works in tandem, until Gary Spargo (Matthew Goode) and Luvlee (Isla Fisher) “befriend” Chris to help them rob a bank. But, when things go wrong, it is Chris who has the power.
The inclusion of the character named Bone (Greg Dunham) is the epitome of The Lookout’s downfall. Because Matthew Goode’s Gary Spargo doesn’t muster enough wickedness to assume the role of villain, Frank adds Bone. Apparently Gary’s uncle, Bone is a quiet, monstrous character, who takes on the look of Gene Simmons in a second-rate horror, with slicked-back hair and black shades. Furthermore, this “boss” assumes an overly tacky theatrical name. Why not Killer or Death? Come on.
More than anything, it is the psychological storyline that works. With a lead that borders on narcoleptic, calls tomatoes “lemons,” and smells colors, The Lookout is most compelling when we watch Chris struggle and develop. Taking into account that Chris was once a popular jock and now a hindered mind made up of ritual, pattern, and repetition, his character creates an interesting juxtaposition. His frustration and regret seep from his skin like sweat.
In the end, an interesting, yet predictable, climax arcs the tale with a most unlikely shot. The predictability comes from the comparisons to the other psychological crime capers, and the unlikeliness comes in the aim and placement of the weapon. Nevertheless, the film has its merits.
Especially if you haven’t seen Memento, The Lookout will be placed higher on your psychological picture pedestal. While the film doesn’t necessarily miss its mark, it simply doesn’t do enough to come off as professional and veteran. Ultimately, tie a black string around your index finger as a reminder to eventually get around to seeing this one.