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ccda2acc2a5cb84091f7bbdcbc9a04f0The Lookout is the strangest crime drama to come along so far this year. At the beginning of the film Chris Pratt, played by former Third Rock from the Sun star Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is the guy you love to hate—he has a rich father, a beautiful girlfriend, good-looking friends and a fast car. Life is perfect until he causes a car accident that claims his friends and leaves him with severe brain damage.

Years later Chris’ mangled mind leaves him confused and filled with anger. Simple tasks throw him and he longs for his past life, even though he can’t quite remember what it was like. Working as a night janitor at a local bank he muddles through his job with the aid of an ever-present notebook in which he makes the reminder notes that help him cope. When a charismatic former friend (Matthew Goode) maneuvers him into taking part in robbing the bank, Chris thinks he is taking steps toward controlling his life. He doesn’t realize he’s being manipulated until it is too late.

The shadow of Christopher Nolan’s Memento hangs heavy over The Lookout. The lack of short-term memory is a central plot device in both films. Memento’s hero using upside down tattoos and Polaroids to jog his memory while The Lookout uses a more practical, (although cinematically less exciting) solution: a notebook. The difference in the way the two characters jog their shattered memories is much like the difference between the movies. Memento is a much showier film. The Lookout is more low-key relying on the performances to propel the story rather than theatrics.

Gordon-Levitt has transformed from sit-com star to one of the best actors of his generation. Recent turns in Mysterious Skin and Brick show a young actor taking chances. In The Lookout, he goes further, deepening his work, creating a person whose character has been shattered. It’s a subtle, well-crafted performance that is always interesting.

Also interesting are Jeff Daniels as Chris’ out-spoken blind roommate, Isla Fissher as the moll with the unlikely name of Luvlee Lemons and British actor Matthew Goode as the charismatic baddie who lures Chris into hot water.

The Lookout isn’t, however, quite as good as the sum of its parts. The great acting and atmospheric cinematography aren’t enough to elevate a story that starts off promisingly but slowly works its way through to a hackneyed and labored ending.

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