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PARIS–A high-octane sniper thriller that never quite hits its target, The Lookout (Le Guetteur) delivers bursts of gripping action alongside an otherwise heavy-handed tale of cops and robbers, with a sociopathic killer thrown into the mix.
This French-language feature from Italian actor-director Michele Placido (Crime Novel, Angel of Evil) should run up decent homeland numbers thanks to stars Daniel Auteuil and Mathieu Kassovitz, with further stints in European and Eastern territories. Although a Stateside release is unlikely, the pitch may turn a few heads in Hollywood.
Indeed, first-time screenwriters Cédric Melon and Denis Brusseaux have cooked up a fairly potent concept, evident from an opening scene that takes your typical bank heist gone wrong, and then tosses in a fresh ingredient: a tight-lipped sniper named Kaminski (Kassovitz), who’s perched on a far away rooftop to shoot down the squad of arresting officers, led by the overstressed and grumbling Mattei (Auteuil).
But once that rather effective sequence runs its course, the film veers towards more predictable waters when it introduces a creepy doctor, Franck (Dardenne Bros. regular Olivier Gourmet), who is soon suspected of gruesomely murdering Kaminski’s lawyer/ex-girlfriend (Arly Jover), as well as one of his partners in crime. With Mattei disappearing for much of the second act, the cat and mouse game between Franck and Kaminski takes center stage, but the serial killer plotline is way too generic (e.g. Franck acts like an introverted weirdo and listens to soothing music on a pair of vintage headphones) to sustain things until an explosive finale.
It’s a pity the filmmakers didn’t streamline their movie into a simple case of sniper vs. copper, because the closing scene—set in the heart of Paris in broad daylight—is filled with the kind of tense and gritty action that’s absent for much of the time. And while Placido has a certain talent for staging credible set pieces, the other sequences bear the routine air of a primetime policier, mixing up cheap romanticism (in the form of a kitschy Italian couple, played by Luca Argentero (Eat Pray Love) and Violante Placido (The American)) with a homogenized world of crooks, killers and drug addicts.
Kassovitz proves that he can hold his own as a downbeat action star, while Auteuil mostly phones things in (from his desk), attempting late in the game to inject some pathos into a dubious subplot involving the war in Afghanistan.
Working again with cinematographer Arlando Catinari, Placido drains much of the color out of the City of Lights, capturing the dense urban backdrop in slick, grey-toned widescreen. Nonstop score (credited to three composers) quickly grows tiresome.
Production companies: Babe Films, Climax Films, Filmarno, StudioCanal, France 2 Cinema, Appaloosa Films, Apidev 2010, Ran Entertainment, RTBF (Télévision Belge), Rai Cinema
Cast: Daniel Auteuil, Mathieu Kassovitz, Olivier Gourmet, Francis Renaud, Nicolas Briançon, Arly Jover
Director: Michele Placido
Screenwriters: Cedric Melon, Denis Brusseaux
Producers: Fabio Conversi
Executive producer: Jean-Yves Asselin
Director of photography: Arlando Catinari
Production designer: Jean-Jacques Gernolle
Music: Nicolas Errera, Evgueni, Sacha Galperine
Costume designer: Virginie Montel
Editor: Sebastien Prangere, Consuelo Catucci
No rating, 89 minutes
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