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Joseph Gordon-Levitt……….Chris Pratt
Matthew Goode……….Gary Spargo
Ever since Joseph Gordon-Levitt wrapped up his time on Third Rock from the Sun, his career has gone quite differently than expected. Instead of following the traditional route of non-stop teen comedies and the ilk that most teen stars from television shows pursue, Levitt has become a staple of independent cinema. Receiving critical acclaim last year for his role in the film noir piece Brick, Levitt is back with another entry into the crime genre with The Lookout.
Levitt stars as Chris Pratt, a former high school hockey star turned janitor. It’s not his choice to leave the chance at a potential pro hockey career for the less glamorous world of scrubbing toilets and mopping floors at a local bank; an accident has robbed him of his mental faculties. Left a completely different person than he was before, Chris is haunted by memories of the accident and yearns for the life he once had. In walks Gary Spargo (Matthew Goode), a former high school classmate, and Luvlee (Isla Fisher), a stripper turned secretary, with a plan he finds as attractive as Luvlee. He’ll be the lookout as Gary and his friends rob the place, using him to help get into the bank and take the proceeds of a bank vault filled with more cash than at any other point in the year.
But the film’s focus isn’t on the crime aspect of the plot; it’s more of a character driven drama then anything else. The heist only takes up the last stanza of the film. Chris’s life and Gary’s entrance into it, and the effects thereafter, are Scott Frank’s primary focus. We get to know Chris as a person now and see his life evolve into making the decision to join up with Gary and his band of thieves. Frank spends a lot of time establishing Chris and his impairments, as well as setting up the varied reactions of people in his past react to him currently. His panging for the past, before the brain injury and before the scars, is evident as he works a menial job with a foul-mouthed blind guy as a roommate (Jeff Daniels). Frank’s buildup to the heist is terrific; it’s used as an event to show what kind of person Chris is but isn’t the focus point of the film. Frank builds up to this moment by establishing the type of people Gary and Chris are. Chris’s decision is understandable and it’s easy to empathize with him; he’s in a man in a lot of pain and who wants to go back to a time where he was in control of his fate. The event is redemption for the life he led before the accident. Everything and everyone in his life leads up to it to test his character and his mettle; it’s a character based film that hinges on the performance from its main star.
The character wouldn’t work without Gordon-Levitt, that’s for sure. Showing the same sort of smart movie choices and roles that Leonardo DiCaprio did, and eerily enough following the same type of career arc, he brings a lot of a character that is relatively hard to play. Chris is mentally challenged to a certain degree, needing to write things down, and it would be easy to play the character more like Raymond from Rain Man than anything else, but he does something different. He plays it straight in a sense; Chris isn’t some comical version of someone with a serious problem. He embeds Chris with enough humanity and the ability to be empathized with; it’s easy to feel sorry for him but we also understand his plight.
In the scope of things, The Lookout is another notch in what is seemingly becoming a strong resume in the acting career of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. With surprisingly good performance from an unaccented Matthew Goode and another strong performance from character actor Jeff Daniels, it’s a top notch character drama built around yet another great performance from perhaps the next great young actor.
FINAL RATING (ON A SCALE OF 1-5 BUCKETS):