FOR a young actor who made his name playing an alien in 133 episodes of the quirky television sit-com 3rd Rock from the Sun, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is coming of age by portraying some very human characters on the big screen.
While thankfully steering well and truly clear of the dreaded teen heart-throb path he could easily have followed after appearing in comedy 10 Things I Hate About You (2000), Gordon-Levitt has chosen very deep and at times disturbing roles in a string of confronting films such as Mysterious Skin (2004), Brick (2005), Stop Loss (2008) and The Lookout (2007).
In the latter, an intelligent yet brooding crime drama from first-time director, long-time screenwriter Scott Frank (Minority Report, Get Shorty, Out of Sight), he plays Chris Pratt, a lost soul who must go to hell and back in order to find peace in his life.
The Lookout is primarily a heist film, but revolves around Chris and his bid to rehabilitate himself. He’s in a very dark place and the film shares his mood. They are both compelling viewing.
Chris was once the small town high school ice hockey star, and resident rich kid, who seemingly had the world at his feet. That is until a reckless prom night joy ride goes horribly wrong and he crashes into a combine.
Four years later he is left a broken young man, battling disability, the result of head injuries caused by the accident, and battling depression, the result of killing two of his friends who were in the car.
Hopes of a successful sporting career on the ice have long dried up, with Chris now struggling to make ends meet as the janitor of a small bank, needing on-going counselling from the local mental health service and living with his only friend, Lewis (Jeff Daniels), who although blind is somewhat of a guide – and semi-carer – for the down-trodden younger man.
Desperate for more direction and purpose in his life, Chris wants to become a teller in the bank he cleans - or even open a restaurant with Lewis – but isn’t receiving much support from his boss or his old man.
When he is befriended by Gary (Matthew Goode) and seduced by former exotic dancer Luvlee (Isla Fisher), Chris finally feels as though his life may be turning around. But unbeknownst to him, it is just the calm before an almighty storm – one that will put his life at risk.
(Spoliers) Chris soon realises he is being used. Preyed upon. A simple pawn in an elaborate plan by Gary and his ‘crew’ to rob the bank where he works.
What results is a pretty intense final act. A couple of brutal showdowns, that show Chris is still very much and alive and well in the world. Certainly capable of outsmarting a petty criminal.
Supporting the impressive Gordon-Levitt, Goode (who was just seen in Watchmen) and Daniels (Dumb and Dumber, Arachnophobia) are both brilliant in their respective roles. Both very believable, particularly Daniels as the blind and bearded ‘Larry Flynt-looking’ wise owl Lewis. Fisher on the other hand is simply annoying – again. She always has been, ever since she was on Australian television.
A highlight of the film though belongs to minor player, Deputy Ted (Sergio Di Zio), dubbed ‘Deputy Doughnut’, the simple small town cop who, proving a dead-eye with a pistol in his hand, cuts loose towards the end of the film and almost single-handedly brings down Gary’s gang.
Then there’s of course the mysterious Bone (Greg Dunham), Gary’s shades-wearing, shotgun-carrying enforcer and the real threat to Chris and Lewis’s existence.
Plenty of interesting characters. Plenty of interesting turns. Plenty to like. ‘Lookout’ for it (boom boom).