“Start at the end. You can’t tell a story if you don’t know where it’s going. Write that down.”
Here’s the bottom line on The Lookout: it’s a solid film that will keep you locked in with the stimulating balance of a heist/con flick and a well played story of overcoming personal tragedy. When I look at Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s career I see a rise of respect through his work parallel to the respect I give to Gordon-Levitt’s fellow Inception star, Leonardo DiCaprio. Both actors rose beyond their television breaks, DiCaprio on Growing Pains and Gordon-Levitt on 3rd Rock From The Sun, shedding their teen heartthrob skin on the road to becoming respected actors. Although Gordon-Levitt lacks the track record of working with the award-winning and legendary directors that DiCaprio has, Gordon-Levitt still landed a role alongside DiCaprio in the Christopher Nolan film Inception. If Nolan sees potential in you, then you‘re doing something right. Case in point: Nolan’s controversial (at the time of announcement) choice of Heath Ledger as “The Joker” in The Dark Knight. With all of that set aside, The Lookout was another film, just like Renaissance, that hooked me with the trailer but took me a couple of years to get around to. However, unlike Renaissance, The Lookout was well worth the wait.
Was The Lookout a groundbreaking display of storytelling like Memento? No, but it didn’t have to be, nor was it trying to be. The Lookout is a fun watch with a solid story, and that’s enough to carry the film while keeping you interested. The back of the DVD box says that The Lookout has “a twist you’ll never see coming”. I don’t really get where that comes into play because there’s a complete lack of a twist ending or even a setup for one in the story. I don’t get why they would try to sell you on that while, in truth, it’s a pretty plain and simple con. Chris has a disability that can be exploited and he works at the bank that Gary wants to rob so Gary exploits Chris’s weakness to carry out his plan. Does the twist lie in whether or not Chris helps? Because I read the back of the box first I found myself trying to figure out what this twist could be. I kept looking for some reveal, like Gary being related to someone injured or involved in Chris’ accident and the whole plan was based on revenge. At one point I even gave in to the thought that Lewis might be in on the whole thing; even as far as faking his own blindness. Instead, the story played out with no twists that were evident to me and I enjoyed the film far more than I would have if a lame twist was thrown in just for the sake of having a “cool” twist ending. I just wish I was able to watch the movie without this false search of a twist.
After the story sets up the accident, we flash forward four years to see Chris’s new life and the hardships of adjusting from a life of privilege to the life of a disabled janitor working at a small time bank in a small country town. In comes our protagonist’s savior, Gary Spargo, played by Watchmen’s Matthew Goode. Gary claims that, even though he was three years ahead of Chris at school, he “looked up to ‘Slapshot’ as if he were a god” and wants to give him the opportunity to get back the life that he once had and still deserves. Gary befriends Chris and begins planting the seed in Chris’s frail mind that he deserves better than the life he seems to be stuck in. Gary sweetens the pot by giving Chris a new purpose in the form of what appears to be a newly budding love in the form of Gary’s “friend” and retired dancer, Luvlee, played by Isla Fisher. With Chris’ friendship with Lewis on the rocks, there is no one to help Chris maintain a rational outlook on all of these new distractions, allowing Gary to swoop in on the seed that he planted in Chris’ mind, making it easy for Chris to buy in to this new thought of getting back the self-empowerment that he once wielded like a god. After Gary’s well played speech on “whoever has the money has the power,” even I was hooked and wanted to rob a bank with them.
The Lookout brings us into the life of Chris “Slapshot” Pratt, a high school star athlete with the life of a rock star turned disabled night time janitor working the over-night shift at a bank due to a near-fatal car crash four years earlier. Although Chris survived the crash seemingly outwardly unharmed, the trauma sustained to his brain forces Chris into a new life that is far from his days of being “Slapshot”. Chris’ main disability is with his memory, leaving him unable to keep a consistent memory of his everyday life and activities. Think of it as something along the lines of Memento but nowhere near as severe, and instead of taking pictures he writes important things down in his notepad. The only constant thing in Chris’s life is his friend and roommate Lewis, played by Jeff Daniels. The two were paired together through Chris’s rehabilitation program. Lewis acts as sort of a mentor to Chris, having already adjusted to his disability, helping him through his frustrations of having to write down his day-to-day activities.
Here we are in week five, and after last week’s review of the sleeper Renaissance, I was looking for a 52 Pick-Up redemption. Did The Lookout deliver? Was I able to find my redemption and help keep up my high batting average of awesome 52 Pick-Up choices? Well, seeing how, in true Chris Pratt fashion, we started at the end of the story and worked our way back to the beginning, you should already know the answer to that one. Now bring on week six!