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My review of “Looper” (2012)

I am still blogging my past movie reviews on Faceback; this was my somewhat enthusiastic review of “Looper.”  @@@@@

FINALLY.   After a string of misfires, I finally succeeded in bringing home a decent movie from Redbox – “Looper” (2012), a smartly written, high-concept sci-fi thriller in which Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a mob hitman charged with executing a time-traveling older version of himself (Bruce Willis).  This was a decent, thoughtful flick that definitely held my attention – I’d give it an 8 out of 10.

The script and dialogue were great, there were decent special effects, and this was a highly original story — with at least one nightmare-inducing wrinkle that was damn horrifying (such as when one character is cleverly extorted to be at a warehouse within 15 minutes).  Ugh.  The acting all around was decent, charmingly accentuated with makeup effects that really did make Levitt look like a younger Willis.  While Levitt, Willis, Jeff Daniels and Emily Blunt were all really good, the terrific new child actor Pierce Gagnon stole the show – this kid’s voice and facial expressions blew me away.

It isn’t perfect.  This wasn’t the escapist thriller that I was expecting.  It’s downright chatty for a film about mob assassins, and it certainly didn’t feel like a “chase movie.”  Although my attention never wavered, at times I did feel as though it was unexpectedly slow.  It’s also a hard film for which to find anyone to root for — is any character besides Emily Blunt and the prostitute someone who can be considered a “good guy?”  The story fails to render a likeable main character, whether it’s a younger or older version of “Joe.”  I think many filmgoers will start out rooting for Willis – but this ought to change considering the choices he makes in the story.  I found myself rooting for the kid … but this was a character that my friends intensely disliked.  This isn’t a feel-good movie or a fun, futuristic fantasy, like a more cerebral “Total Recall.”  It’s really more of a violent drama than a thriller.

For hard-core sci-fi fans, this movie might also suffer in comparison to that OTHER Bruce Will time-travel tragedy – “12 Monkeys” (1995).  There are similar plot elements and setups, but writer-director Rian Johnson just can’t compete here with the magic of Terry Gilliam.  No one can.  Comparing this movie with “12 Monkeys” is like comparing “Batman” (1989) with the seminal modern Christopher Nolan films.

Then there were the seemingly inevitable plot holes that come with every time travel movie.  I personally thought that the premise was a little shaky – “loopers” are hitmen who actually agree to assassinate future versions of themselves, with the understanding that they can live out a wealthy, 30-year vacation in the intervening years.  So, by definition, this job requires employees who are suicidal, albeit in a delayed fashion.  I kinda think this job would attract only unstable individuals – who probably couldn’t be best trusted with a high-pressure task like assassination.

I also saw this film with a friend who is far brighter than I am, and he easily pointed out other plot holes immediately.  For example, the mob sends assassination victims back in time, because future tracking technology makes it impossible to hide a dead body.  But if the technology exists for TIME TRAVEL, surely sufficient technology should exist to vaporize a body, right?  Moreover, the time machine also seems to work as a transporter – travelers are displaced geographically.  Why not teleport dead bodies out into space, or deep within the earth’s bedrock?  There are additional questions that are even more obvious … why don’t future mobsters travel back in time themselves?  They can easily live like kings with foreknowledge of the stock market or sports gambling.  Even that knucklehead Biff from “Back to the Future Part II” (1989) was able to figure that out.

All in all, though, this was a good movie that is well worth the price of a rental.  I’d really recommend it.

Postscript: if anyone sees this movie and enjoys it, may I also recommend “The X-Files’” own incredibly well done time-travel episode, “Synchrony,” (Season 4, Ep. 19)?  If you enjoy this, you’ll enjoy Mulder and Scully in a similar story.

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