In a genre full of Memento wannabes, The Lookout is a very good Memento-lite--not less effective than that film but, for better and worse, less self-serious.
The Lookout begins like what might seem a teen horror flick, with a convertible full of prom kids speeding, and then crashing, along a dark road at night. Luckily, what follows is decidedly adult. The driver of the car, Chris Pratt (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), suffered brain trauma as a result of the accident and in the four years since has struggled with memory and sensory lapses. He lives with a man named Lewis (Jeff Daniels), who has his own handicap: blindness. Chris helps with everything Lewis can't see, and Lewis in return mentors his much-younger friend about life. But Lewis is rendered helpless in Chris' latest conundrum. After an encounter with an old friend (Matthew Goode), Chris is persuaded to aid in the robbery of the Kansas City bank at which he is a night janitor. He likes the rediscovered sense of autonomy the proposed heist brings him and the rebelliousness of robbing the bank whose boss won't let him become a teller; he also likes the girl (Isla Fisher) that's apparently a throw-in. But when it comes time to, literally and figuratively, pull the trigger, Chris is rattled by second thoughts--and clarity.
Whereas the Lindsays and Britneys of Hollywood perpetuate the ''Former Child Star'' cliché, Gordon-Levitt makes it a title worth being proud of. The former Third Rock from the Sun star has stayed pretty much under the radar for the past several years on his way to becoming one of the best young actors, former child star or not, but he can only resist big paydays for so long with such talent. In The Lookout, Levitt is able to grasp the less-is-more concept that is usually only understood by actors decades his senior. In so doing, he adds depth, mystery and suffering to a character that probably would've been played quirkily by most of his peers. But Levitt never needs to play for laughs because he's got Daniels--speaking of quirky--for that. The ever-self-reinventing actor continues his odd role choice and great performances in the film by serving up primarily much-needed comic relief. Fisher (Wedding Crashers) has breakout potential and leading-lady looks and acting chops, but she's inexplicably offscreen too much, while Goode (Match Point), who will make the female viewers blush, is ominous from the first scene he's in--and that's a compliment.
The Lookout's writer-director, Scott Frank, is a first-time director, but don't call him a rookie. One of the most highly regarded screenwriters of the past 20 years, Frank has twice worked wonders with Elmore Leonard novels (Out of Sight, Get Shorty) and done justice to sci-fi god Philip K. Dick (Minority Report) in addition to penning his own material (Little Man Tate and others). Indeed, the man knows his drama. While The Lookout may not appeal to some of the aforementioned authors' fans, Frank's story is wholly original and in many ways seems adapted from his own crime-fiction novel--he's a true writer's writer. Frank relies on the occasional flashback, an unfortunate form of exposition, but with such deep, rich characters that he thought up, one little crutch is forgivable, even necessary. As a director, Frank could do a lot worse and more pretentious than The Lookout for his first of hopefully many efforts; in fact, the vast majority of his veteran contemporaries should be so lucky as to have their best dramas be as engrossing as Frank's first.
Hollywood.com rated this film 3 stars.