MOVIE REVIEW- High praise: Look out for ‘The Lookout'!

Some movies sneak up on you, but The Lookout, which should be the sleeper of the year, grabs you by the throat with its opening scene and never lets go.

Scott Frank, screenwriter of Out of Sight and Get Shorty, proves equally adept at directing from his own script, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Mysterious Skin) demonstrates an appealing vulnerability in the leading role that should make him one of the most sought-after actors in Hollywood.

The prologue shows Chris Pratt (Gordon-Levitt) as a cocky kid, impressing his date by driving without lights to show off the fireflies' mating ritual. Four years later, two people are dead from the resulting accident and Chris has a learning disability, narcolepsy and other brain dysfunctions, including an occasional tendency to blurt out whatever he's thinking. Some actors would be obnoxious with this agenda, but he makes it endearing.

When Chris tells his caseworker (Carla Gugino), "I just wanna be who I was," it's heartbreaking, since that's not an option.

Chris lives in a cheap apartment with blind Lewis (Jeff Daniels) and works as a janitor in a bank, yet still gets some financial aid from his wealthy father (Bruce McGill). A legendary high school hockey player before the accident, he's been forgotten by most of his fans.

One who still remembers is Gary Spargo (Matthew Goode), who chats up Chris in the local bar (named The Local) after a display of cool that makes him the person Chris wants to be if he can't be the person he was. Gary quickly becomes Chris' new best friend and even gets him laid by introducing him to Luvlee (Isla Fisher), who does the rest.

Of course Chris is being played, as even he realizes when Gary and company reveal their plans to rob the bank where Chris works. Like a cult leader, Gary fills Chris' head with thoughts of financial independence, freedom from exploitation ("Whoever has the money has the power") and other dreams come true– all for turning a blind eye and acting as lookout.

It's Lewis who, ironically, serves as lookout for Chris. He can't see, but he can feel when things are too good to be true for his roommate, with whom he dreams of opening a restaurant; and he does his best to protect him. Chris' only other true friend is Deputy Ted (Sergio Di Zio), a sitcom lawman who brings him doughnuts at work while officially keeping an eye on a little bank no one would think of robbing.

Chris makes a lot of lists and takes a lot of notes to help him remember things (homage to Memento?), but his biggest problem, his semi-poetic narration reminds us, is sequencing– remembering things in the correct order. Lewis suggests that making a story out of it would help, and it will be easier if he starts at the end and works backwards (definite homage to Memento).

This doesn't entirely tie together in the end, which is the least original part of The Lookout (but there are only so many ways a story like this can end).

It doesn't mean much so early in the game, but at this writing, The Lookout is the best picture of 2007, as well as the best movie about hockey and fireflies ever made.