With enough opening jump cuts to give Baz Lurhmann a minor epileptic spasm, Michele Placido’s steely French crime thriller The Lookout (Le Guetteur, 2012) is a Parisian pileup of supersonic, neo-thriller folly. Parading two undisputed talents, Daniel Auteuil and Mathieu Kassovitz, the stars wheeze through scenes with desperate gusto, intent on reaching their respective goals. Yet, while conceptually sound Placido’s intentions may be, his latest sniper oriented release fails to really hit the mark. Initially posing itself as a cop killing romp, Placido’s opening scenes offer strong promise with a clear lean toward Hollywood exoticism.
After a bank heist goes awry, Auteuil’s squad fall victim to a slickly shot sniper attack. From here stems an almost Silence and the Lambs-like riff consisting of peculiar plot holes and zestless serial killer cliches. Prettily staged and occasionally exciting, Kassovitz (playing the notably dead pan, downbeat sharpshooter, Kaminski) becomes involved in a beleaguered tale of vengeance and retribution. As Auteil chases the tail of Kassovitz (mainly from the safety of the police station), Kassovitz seeks his own requital in the form of estranged doctor Franck (Olivier Gourmet). What follows is an average cop-seeking-vigilante killer-seeking-pyscho-killer caper.
First-time screenwriters Cedric Melon and Denis Brusseux have undoubtedly maintained a level of coherency in their narrative escapade. But much like other standoffish crime thrillers such as Heat (1995), it is usually the matrimony of the two leading men that become the focal point of the film. Both Kassovitz and Auteuil work their hardest to squeeze whatever originality they can out of their somewhat paint-by-numbers script, but both have been in far superior productions that allowed them to explore their acting faculties. Nonetheless, whilst Placido’s The Lookout is cinematically beige, his intentional greying of the Paris streets provides a morose, noir-like timbre that, while not sustained for the majority of the film, makes for some gloomily shot moments of professionalism.
However, once again, this construction of tension is eradicated by an omnipresent music score; stripping scenes of their edge and homogenising their well thought-out set locations. For a thriller loosely posing itself as a sniper-based action, the flourishes of fervour come and go faster than a shot from a gun. Unfortunately, both the opening and concluding scenes of The Lookout are where nearly all the suspense riddled points occupy themselves. It’s just the rest of the seventy minutes that go to waste with hardly any shoot-out swagger and too many bloated plot discrepancies.