The Films of Scott Frank
The Lookout (August 12/07)
The directorial debut of noted screenwriter Scott Frank, The Lookout casts Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Chris Pratt - a janitor suffering from brain damage who finds himself unwittingly caught up in a scheme to rob the bank where he works. Jeff Daniels co-stars as Chris' blind roommate, while Matthew Goode plays the charismatic force behind the robbery. There's little doubt that The Lookout benefits substantially from Gordon-Levitt's absolutely stunning performance, as the movie is sporadically bogged down in precisely the sort of cliches that one might've expected from such a premise (with the presence of an almost comically sinister thug named Bone the most overt example of this). It's consequently difficult not to wish that Frank had just emphasized a more low-key sort of vibe - ie more scenes revolving around Chris' friendship with Daniels' character - though there's certainly no denying the effectiveness of the film's genuinely thrilling third act. Despite its flaws, however, The Lookout is ultimately an above-average first feature that's undoubtedly more compelling than some of Frank's more high-profile screenwriting gigs as of late (including 2002's Minority Report and 2005's The Interpreter).
A Walk Among the Tombstones
Scott Frank's first film since (the far superior) The Lookout, A Walk Among the Tombstones follows Liam Neeson's Matt Scudder, a cop turned private investigator, as he agrees to look into the kidnapping and murder of a local drug kingpin (Dan Stevens' Kenny Kristo). Writer/director Frank does a superb job of immediately capturing the viewer's attention, as A Walk Among the Tombstones opens with an engrossing stretch that effectively establishes the central character and his latest case - with the movie's thoroughly watchable vibe heightened by a typically engaging performance by Neeson. It's only as the film segues into its leisurely, padded-out midsection that one's interest begins to wane, as Frank has infused this portion of the proceedings with the unmistakable feel of a police procedural - with the narrative, for the most part, following Scudder as he tracks down leads, interviews suspects and witnesses, etc, etc. There's little doubt, too, that Frank's emphasis on several less-than-enthralling elements compounds the movie's erratic atmosphere, with the most obvious example of this Scudder's growing (and persistently tedious) friendship with a street-smart teenage runaway (Brian Bradley's TJ). It's not until the film charges into its action-packed and surprisingly electrifying third act that the viewer is wholeheartedly drawn back into the proceedings, with the prolonged finale, to a certain degree, compensating for the ineffectiveness of most of what preceded it - which does, in the end, confirm A Walk Among the Tombstone's place as an uneven yet passable crime thriller.