“The Lookout,” review by Susan Granger

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An unusual character study combined with a bank-heist premise adds up to a taut psychological thriller.

Chris Pratt (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a former Kansas high school hockey star whose life got sidelined when a careless car crash left him with a severe brain injury. He has trouble with his memory, particularly sequencing events (shades of “Memento”), and making sense of things. Sharing an apartment with a wisecracking blind companion, Lewis (Jeff Daniels), Chris is clearly guilt-ridden and frustrated but somewhat self-sufficient, although he needs to write down in a pocket notebook even the most mundane tasks, like “lock door when leaving,” as well as daily life lessons.

Since he works as the night janitor in a small-town bank, Chris becomes an obvious and vulnerable target for a ruthless crook, Gary Spargo (Matthew Goode), who helps him find a girl-friend, a compliant ex-stripper named Luvee Lemons (Isla Fisher). Cleverly manipulating Chris’s shaky self-esteem, Gary convinces him to go along with an ill-fated robbery plan, telling him, “Those who have the money have the power.” It’s obvious that Chris’s mental disability is the pivotal factor – and that augments the sinister suspense.

Screenwriter Scott Frank, who adapted Elmore Leonard’s “Get Shorty” and “Out of Sight,” makes this an auspicious directing debut. His casting choices are meticulous. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a former child actor, familiar from the sitcom “3rd Rock from the Sun,” who, more recently, starred in “Brick.” And Jeff Daniels (“The Squid and the Whale”) provides sardonic comic relief. It’s too bad that, as the story methodically unfolds, the pace is so slow that, in the middle, one is tempted to become disengaged. So on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Lookout” is an edgy 7, a darkly engaging crime caper

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.