Cast only good thing about latest thriller

Adam Griffiths

Don’t drive at night on old Country Road 24 without your lights on.

In a sentence, that pretty much sums up the point of director Scott Frank’s latest, The Lookout.

Part clich‚ MTV-scene rip off, part action/thriller, the film is the story of Chris Pratt (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Brick), the high school senior who had it all and lost it on the night of his senior prom while joyriding in the country through clouds of fireflies. He crashes into stalled farm equipment. Two people die.

And then the ubiquitous “Four years later” flashes on the black screen.

Four years after spending a week and a half in a coma, Pratt wakes up, showers (with soap), eats breakfast and leads a life full of reconstructive therapy and waxing floors every night. He lives with the blind Lewis Canfield (Jeff Daniels, Infamous) and visits his well-to-do family for holidays and occasions. Because of his injuries, he documents his life, play-by-play, in a little red notebook.

Pratt meets Gary Wargo (Matthew Goode, Match Point) at the bar one night after work. An impersonal friendship plays out until Wargo reveals his master plan to rob banks in the rural area as they receive their annual government payouts. Pratt, too deep to get out, goes along with the scheme as the lookout, but inevitably ends up in control of the loot when things go awry.

The rest of the film happens predictably. The bad guys capture the blind man. The kingpin forces Pratt to reveal the location of the loot. The rest is your average adolescent thriller.

The script permits Pratt enough nostalgia to create its own CW series. We are supposed to feel sorry for him, but he gets laid, robs a bank and sends his accomplices on a wild mouse chase.

Wargo’s band of thugs are a nice attempt at criminals. They barge into old farmhouses, shut the elderly owners in the upper levels and hold an impromptu, week-late Thanksgiving dinner.

But we don’t get a sense of who the characters are. The movie comes off as incomplete as Pratt’s therapeutic attempt to recount one of his days in his notebook. There’s Pratt’s disturbed, detached BMW-selling family who doesn’t know what to make of him. There’s Canfield, who dreams of opening his own diner. The characters only have a semblance of resolve. Even Wargo’s endeavor is lackluster.

The Lookout’s performances are some salvation. Gordon-Levitt is convincing in dealing with a fleeting memory and crumbling future. The role wasn’t as challenging as what he pulled off in Mysterious Skin, but it’s a far improvement from his “Third Rock from the Sun” days.

Daniels, though, steals all his scenes. As a scruffy-faced, sunglass-wearing sales rep, he flirts openly with short-skirted waitresses and negotiates a loan for his diner, “Lou’s Your Lunch.” In his only storybook scene, he, the blind man, sees right through Luvlee Lemons (Isla Fisher, Wedding Crashers), Wargo’s harlot who’s assigned to seduce Pratt into cooperation with the first sex he’s had in years. Not like that’s been done before.

If it didn’t play out like the eventual finale of “Friday Night Lights” or the lost “Melrose Place” cliffhanger, The Lookout might have more promise. But from Lemons’ quaint country robe and seductive, “I always wished I was Chris Pratt” farce to Goode’s final moments in which, as a bloody mess, he reaches for his inhaler, Frank’s attempt is less than edge-of-your-seat worthy.

The actors may have been able to save some of the show, but weak characters and a less than hardy plot leave the film as empty as the barren fields that serve as its setting.

The Lookout

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jeff Daniels, Matthew Goode

Directed by: Scott Frank

Distributed by: Miramax Pictures

Rated: R for language, some violence and sexual contact

Stater rating (out of five):

? 1/2

Contact ALL correspondent Adam Griffiths at [email protected].