The directorial debut of screenwriter Scott Frank, unsurprisingly also the writer of this intriguing thriller, is something that fans of intelligently constructed films should be anticipating with relish.
Best known in Hollywood as a script doctor, working on films as diverse as Minority Report and The Interpreter, it is for two solo screenplays based on Elmore Leonard novels for which film buffs should thank him. Although Get Shorty has now lost some of its lustre following the dire 2005 sequel Be Cool, it was a classy flick that, combined with the rise of Tarantino, helped shift the nature of crime movies in the mid-90s. As for Out of Sight, the film that proved George Clooney’s status as one of modern Hollywood’s finest stars as well as bringing director Steven Soderbergh back into the mainstream, it remains one of the coolest and most fun films of the last decade.
With such a track record, little wonder that Frank’s shift into directing with a self-penned heist thriller is being greatly looked forward to by fans of classy, cool crime cinema. Yet that’s not all, because at the film’s heart is one of the most promising young actors currently working in Hollywood.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt first came to fame with the oddball US sitcom Third Rock From the Sun, playing an incongruously intelligent child who was actually an alien in disguise, more than holding his own throughout the show’s five-year run despite playing opposite the veteran John Lithgow. Yet despite this early promise, it’s still insanely rare for sitcom stars – let alone child sitcom stars – to make the break into a respectable Hollywood career. With 2005’s wonderfully paced and intelligently-structured high school-set film noir Brick, Gordon-Levitt confounded all expectations by delivering an effortless performance combining angst with world-weary maturity in the very best tradition of the genre.
For fans of Brick as well as fans of Frank’s 1990s screenplays, the combination of the two – with Gordon-Levitt playing a once-promising high school athlete brain-damaged in a car crash who ends up caught up in a plot to rob the bank at which he works as a cleaner – is a potential delight. With Frank’s proven ability to add cunning twists and turns aplenty and Gordon-Levitt’s knack for nuance (expect him to get an Oscar nomination at some point soon), not to mention the likes of Jeff Daniels and the increasingly promising ex-Home and Away star Isla Fisher in support, the end result is pretty much everything that heist movie buffs could hope for, with Frank’s near-trademark knack for unpredictable twists.
If more Hollywood movies were like this, the life of a film buff would be a much happier place. As it is, the continued development of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, an actor evidently unafraid of a challenge who is more than capable of putting in performances alongside the best of them, and the apparent rise of more experimental and intelligent movies over the last couple of years is certainly cause to celebrate after a summer with more than its fair share of dud blockbusters.