New to DVD - The Lookout - spoiler warning - in which the glaringly obvious glares... obviously

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 21, 2007 04:15pm | Post a Comment
The Lookout was written and directed by Scott Frank. It took ten years to get made and is a labor of love... and a big piece of crap. Two thumbs down from Ngoc and me.

It's set in Kansas City. Why? According to Frank, "I spent time there, but mostly what I loved was that there was an urban environment right next to a rural environment and they're very close together. He can live downtown but work two hours away in the middle of nowhere and I really liked that." That is true, if you drive two hours outside Kansas City you're in the sticks, or another city. So, the setting is very important obviously. Kansas City is like a character in the film, you might say. Of course, his observation applies to nearly every city in the country between the east and west coasts. Obviously Frank had a window seat on a cross country flight or maybe a just layover at Kansas City International. And the in-flight entertainment, I'm guessing, was Memento.
"I really didn't know why, but I just loved where it was. I loved that the mob was no longer there, that it was sort of a dying mob city and more of a "sons and sons of" place now. I just thought it was kind of interesting. I ended up doing a lot of research." Apparently meaning he watched lots of old movies with Kansas City in the title because Kansas City has a very high crime rate and most gangs there don't look much like the Lookout's.


Note to Frank: If you'd Googled "Kansas City" and "mafia," you'd have learned this:

Despite being in prison in 1995, Anthony “Tony Ripes” Civella was seen as the new crime boss. In 1992 he had been convicted of a scheme to divert pharmaceutical drugs from traditional sellers on to the gray market. He was convicted and sentenced to 4 years. Since 1996 he has been free and very active. The remaining Las Vegas interests fall under power of Kansas City LCN Family member Peter Ribaste. His underboss is William Cammisano, Jr. In 1997 all three were placed in Las Vegas’s Black Book and are barred from casinos in that area. Today the Kansas City LCN [la Cosa Nostra] Family is reported to have 20-30 “made” members and is a very tight knit group controlling many street-level rackets.

Winnipeg (left) and Kansas City (right)

The movie is filmed in Winnipeg because somehow there are not one but at least two cities on the continent surrounded by rural areas. And it looks just like Kansas City except it's winter all the time and everyone's white or Native American and it's a lot smaller.  Scott Frank said, "I watched Capote [filmed in Manitoba] and I thought, 'Man, that looks like Kansas,' and I followed in their footsteps." Sounds like more research to me. Or maybe watching Capote is what he meant by "spending time in Kansas City."

Now, I'm not a stickler for authenticity, honestly. I didn't protest Memoirs of a Geisha for casting Chinese women to play Japanese characters who spoke in English. Nor do I mind terribly when Ancient Romans or Greeks are played by Australians or Scots with phony English accents and staunchly heterosexual tastes. My motto, in fact, is "Keep it fake." I just think if you're going to stand all self-important-like, smugly feeling superior because of how real your movie is on account of your painstaking research, then you're asking for it.

Chris is a popular high school hockey player. The movie begins with him driving through the country with his buddies. He turns off the headlights and the car is surrounded by really hokey CGI fireflies, which Chris explains to his friends, which made me laugh out loud. Having Missourians explain to other Missourians what fireflies are is like having a Salvadoran explain pupusas to his homies or Texans explaining armadillos to each other. On the other hand, having seen real fireflies, I couldn't tell what they were supposed to be myself. I thought they were will o' wisps or something.

will-o-the-wisp... or firefly?

A brain injury prevents him from figuring out or remembering key things, a gimmick which is used to explain why he can't figure out all the obvious "twists" that we're spoon-fed and see coming for miles because I guess w
e're supposed to feel like we have a brain injury ourselves. Chris doesn't live at home. His family is rich and have all these guns that they talk about and play with but they're just for show. They're loaded too, so don't shoot them, OK?

But Chris doesn't live at home because he's on bad terms with his family. His family with all the guns. Instead, he lives with his blind friend Lewis. Chris gets a job at a bank in a one-cop-town.  You'll never guess where this is going because, I know from the DVD, that this is a thriller.

Chris falls in with this guy who's speaking with a phony accent. That's not what's supposed to make you suspicious though. He's just an English actor unsure of how to sound Missourian. He does a better job than his co-stars though. This guy is in a gang. One of the guys in the gang just sits around expressionless wearing sunglasses... even indoors and at night. He also wears all black so you just know he's a badass and probably, when he finally does do something besides sitting around scowling in silence, it's going to be badass and in slow motion.

Here's the thing that really made me think lots and lots. The blind guy is the only character in the film who can figure out why these gangstas want to be friends with Chris even t
hough he works so far away in a small town bank with only one cop around and his on such bad terms with his gun-crazy family. OK, in case you missed that. [Zoolander voice] The blind guy is the only one who sees. Deep, huh? I'll give you time to scoop up the pieces of your just-exploded mind now...

You still don't see where this is going, do you? That's because this movie is smarter than you.

Anyway, that one cop befriends Chris and keeps talking about how his wife is expecting and how he sure is looking forward to that and he hopes nothing bad happens to him because his wife is expecting a baby and if anything happens that would be really sad. Like if he got hurt on the job but how could that happen because it's a small town. But, on the other hand, it's real near Kansas City, which is full of unscrupulous city types. But what business would unscrupulous city types have at a bank in the country?

these are gang members

The cop has to remind Chris, and the viewer, this fact because Chris's brain doesn't work. Then, when Chris's unscrupulous city friends concoct a plan involving the bank (that I won't give away) the cop shows up and starts in again. "It's my last day on the job, Chris. I sure hope nothing happens to me on my last day. The reason why it's my last day is on account of my wife is having that baby tomorrow and I'm going to spend time with my new baby just as long as nothing happens to me on my last day."

And then the guy who's silent all the time walks in slow motion and something bad happens to the cop. Then there's a really tedious and prolonged ending involving double crosses and pleas for mercy and guns and a bunch of other crap that's pretty much mandatory.

Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, essayist, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking paid writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. He is not interested in generating advertorials, cranking out clickbait, or laboring away in a listicle mill “for exposure.”
Brightwell has written for Angels Walk LAAmoeblogBoom: A Journal of CaliforniadiaCRITICSHidden Los Angeles, and KCET Departures. His art has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft ContemporaryForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County Store, the book SidewalkingSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured as subject in The Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistCurbedLAEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRWWhich Way, LA?, at Emerson College, and the University of Southern California.
Brightwell is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on AmebaDuolingoFacebookGoodreadsInstagramMubiand Twitter.

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