Offers ultra tidy appeal

The Lookout

on March 30, 2007 by John P. McCarthy
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Scott Frank received an Oscar nomination for adapting Elmore Leonard's novel Out of Sight, so it's no wonder this script has faint Leonardian touches or that he got backing for it as his directorial debut. Enjoyable yet contrived, one senses the screenplay was repeatedly worked over in a seminar or honed using a software program. With stock characters (a wise and wise-cracking blind man; a bumbling small-town cop), salty language, caper tension and heartfelt drama, it's calculated to please.

And please it does. Among its very accessible virtues are three fine performances. As Chris Pratt, Joseph Gordon-Levitt exhibits the good looks, smarts, toughness and sensitivity that have positioned him as the next Ryan Gosling. Chris is a Kansas City high school jock with the world on a string until the night he slams his convertible into a combine while joyriding. His three passengers were killed or maimed, and he sustained a severe head injury, losing his short-term memory along with fine motor skills and inhibitions. Chris has to write everything down and works nights cleaning a bank in an outlying hamlet. He shares an apartment with the upbeat, sight-impaired Lewis (Jeff Daniels) — a schmoozer who mans the phones for 1-800-FLOWERS and helps Chris get by in exchange for companionship. And Brit Mathew Goode delivers as the villainous local who ropes Chris into robbing the bank when it's brimming with winter harvest cash.

No guesswork is needed to see where we're headed at every juncture. Chris returns to the scene of the accident weekly, so naturally the climax takes place there; and his flashbacks to the traumatic event won't catch audience members unaware. The Lookout is Memento set in Mayberry, without any chronological conundrums. Because its logic is utterly transparent, it isn't especially probative; nor is it slick. Frank studiously follows the three organizational principles drummed into Chris during therapy: ritual, pattern and repetition. Even carried out by estimable actors, they can only provide so much pleasure. Distributor: Miramax
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jeff Daniels, Matthew Goode, Carla Gugino, Bruce McGill and Isla Fisher
Director/screenwriter: Scott Frank
Producers: Walter Parkes, Laurence Mark, Roger Birnbaum and Gary Barber
Genre: Crime drama
Rating: R for language, some violence and sexual content
Running time: 99 min.
Release date: March 30, 2007 ltd

Tags: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jeff Daniels, Matthew Goode, Carla Gugino, Bruce McGill, Isla Fisher, Director Scott Frank, Writer Scott Frank, Producer Walter Parkes, Laurence Mark, Roger Birnbaum, Gary Barber, Crime Drama, Elmore Leonard, 1-800-Flowers, Chris
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