Three new thrillers – 'Disturbia,' 'Fracture,' and 'The Lookout' – explore the neo-noir tradition pioneered by movies such as 'Chinatown.'
In the opening scene of The Lookout (R), Chris Pratt (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) races his car along a country road, cutting the headlights to watch a wave of fireflies flicker through the night. "Once upon a time," he remembers, "I had the perfect life." Seconds later, he slams into an oncoming tractor, killing half the car's passengers. Pratt carries his wounds mentally: he is hobbled by the past and terrified of the present. So when a charismatic criminal named Gary Spargo (the excellent Matthew Goode) offers him a chance at something greater, Pratt springs at the opportunity. "The Lookout" is a neo-noir thriller in the tradition of "Chinatown" – the inevitable gunfire arrives loudly, and without warning. But director Scott Frank is more interested in the moral boundaries of his characters, and the best parts of this film have little to do with physical violence. Grade: A–
No such subtlety exists in Fracture (R), a murder mystery that solves itself by the 20-minute mark. All that's left is to figure out why the murderer, a structural engineer named Ted Crawford (Anthony Hopkins), is so intent on baiting the authorities. The lead prosecutor, Willy Beachum (Ryan Gosling), stakes his career on the case. Confusion ensues. Gosling and Hopkins give spirited performances, but "Fracture" is a movie floating on atmosphere. Eventually, it deflates like a tattered balloon. Even the bonus features are dull.
Better is Disturbia (PG-13), a thinly veiled nod to Hitchcock's "Rear Window." Here, 17-year-old Kale (Shia LeBeouf) is under house arrest and suspects his neighbor of murder. Enlisting the help of friends and a beautiful neighbor, he sets out to prove it. "Disturbia" is smart about the predilections of the Gen-Y crowd, and the DVD extras – including a making-of feature – are good fun. Grade: B