A review of “The Lookout” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: *** 1/2

Rating: R for language, violence and mature themes

Run Time: 1 hour, 39 minutes

 

 

A tragic accident sets gears in motion in this tightly-crafted thriller that speaks to the notion of second chances.

Playing fast and loose with Daddy’s car lands teenage hockey star Chris Pratt (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) in a world of hurt; mentally and emotionally impaired by a severe head injury.

Four years later Chris exists on a steady diet of meds and does time at a Life Skills Center in Kansas City. His promising athletic career is a distant memory as is his status as the resident Golden Boy. These days Chris toils as the night janitor at the local bank, where he hopes to work his way up to teller if he can keep track of the count.

A chance meeting with ex-schoolmate Gary Spargo (Matthew Goode) drastically alters the landscape. Chris and Gary make friendly and start hanging with Gary’s fanatical pals, among them an ex-stripper named Luvlee Lemons (Isla Fisher) to whom Chris takes a sexy shine.

Perhaps the meeting wasn’t a stroke of fate after all. Once immersed in Gary’s insular web Chris finds himself ensnared in some ambitious but felonious plans. And his struggle is compelling; torn between a desire to do the right thing and a desperate need to regain his diminishing independence.

Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Scott Frank (“Out of Sight”, “Get Shorty”) comprehends more than putting ideas on paper. His touch behind the camera (in an inspiring debut) is equally deft; allowing his actors to work their magic while he offers up a haunting neo-noir backdrop that simmers with angst. Both tone and pacing are silky smooth, compensating for some sporadic dramatic convention.

Jeff Daniels keeps the cred intact with a smart turn as Chris’ blind roomie cum helpmate Lewis – wise to the ways of the world and Gary Spargo’s particular brand of snaky lowlife. Fisher is a bright spot as the aptly named Luvlee but Levitt effortlessly steals the show; blessed with the It factor in spades.

Well worth a lookout.