Looper, directed by Rian Johnson

Alright, so here’s a review for a NEW movie that just came out. To begin, I had REALLY high expectations for this movie. Like, nearly Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter expectations. And yeah, I thought that movie was gonna be incredible and I had lofty expectations for it, so what, DO SOMETHIN! At least we are getting a REAL movie about Lincoln later in the year…which also features the man himself, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, star of this movie. But that’s neither here nor there, I’m here to talk about Looper. So the general premise of this movie is pretty awesome, but when you are making a movie, book, show, whatever, about time travel, you gotta be careful. It’s very easy for it to become REALLY cheesy (Quantum Leap, the god awful Timecop, etc.), and very little potential for it to be awesome like one of the GOOD Terminator movies, or even, lets say, Groundhog Day. Sure sure, not the same kind of movie, but you look me in the face and tell me Groundhog Day isn’t a freakin’ classic. But the point is, this is tough ground to tread on here. Thankfully, Rian Johnson (who also wrote Brick and ALSO had Joseph Gordon-Levitt, man, that guy is all over the place! He was even Cobra Commander!) doesn’t go in the wrong direction here, and this movie is pretty great. Spectacular even, almost epic. Almost.
So I’ll admit, first 45 minutes of the movie, I wasn’t quite buying it. Johnson was trying too hard to create a Blade Runner type world, with beat up cars and people mostly living in them Mad Max times like Detroit, and you had these Loopers, dudes who were essentially just lazy assassins, on top of the world and dressing like 50’s gangsters. It was all a little too much, especially when I saw Paul Dano, usually an incredible actor (the kid who didn’t talk in Little Miss Sunshine, the person whose milkshake gets drank in There Will Be Blood, also great in an obscure movie you should watch called The Extra Man), is relegated to a whiny little punk who was given too much power by becoming a Looper and wastes it on a fancy looking rocket scooter of sorts that won’t start for him. Man, wish I had a rocket scooter. Or rocket skates! But anyways, he is wasted in this movie, but as I am like to discuss in my reviews, I guess it’s ok, because he’s a plot device. And good and bad movies all need those, amiright?! So these Loopers, I say they are lazy assassins, because in 2044 where the movie takes place, their job is to take out criminals who are sent back in time to be executed. It’s hard getting rid of those pesky bodies that smell up the joint eventually in 2044, and its well nigh impossible in 2074 apparently. So these dudes are sent back with a bag over their heads and blasted in the chest by these Loopers who are supposed to be at their travel point when they appear. Like I said, lazy assassins. But a pretty cool and different premise that I can buy into.

So the plot thickens, as it is ought to, from the real kick-in-the-pants, the fine print to signing up to be a Looper – eventually, you are gonna have to kill your future self. Assassins are generally frowned upon by most societies (which is sad really, because ninjas are awesome) and this one is no exception, the mob that these Loopers work for don’t need any loose ends, so you kill you future self, and from then on, you’ve got 30 years left to the day to live. You get a nice big payoff too though so live on or waste accordingly too though, which is nice of the mob. Well, it seems like more and more people are having to do this lately, and Paul Dano’s character’s number comes up, and thats when we get our first sticky situation. But here’s them living the high life in happier times –

So Paul decides not to off his future self, because he wants to see what he looks like, what he will do. Naturally, the mob, led by a pretty fatherly but still mob-like Jeff Daniels (yep, Harry from Dumb and Dumber), doesn’t really like it when these things happen. We can’t have future dudes running around gabbing secrets, it just isn’t good for business. And this is when the movie started to impress me, both with Levitt’s character’s (lovingly named “Joe”, btw) reaction to his good friend being in trouble. Dano comes to his place for help and he is reluctant from the start, says he can give him some money but thats it, and the goon squad is at his door almost immediately. He (reluctantly) places Dano in his floor safe, and is off to have a very tense and well-written talk with Jeff Daniels….leading to him giving up his friend, in exchange for being able to keep all the money he’s been hoarding. Not your typical hero, and I like it. The first hint that we aren’t really sure how much we should be rooting for this guy, either. And aside from downer endings, if theres one thing I love, its a good anti-hero. Joe is most assuredly that.

It’s here when the special effects really start to show how original they are, with the future version of Dano’s character (I don’t like to name the people who are plot devices, in case you couldn’t tell) slowly losing his fingers, then his entire foot, then his nose, etc., because obviously the now version of Dano is having sort of a bad time with the goons. It ends with future version crawling (thats what you do when you gots no feets) up to an address that was carved into his arm five minutes before as a warning, and promptly shot in the face. Establishing that, when your time is up, this is what you signed up for, you do what you are told or you won’t get those 30 years.

So this is, naturally, how we are set up to be introduced to Willis’ character, Old Joe. All of this drama has Current Joe curious about what HIS future self is, and he gets his chance to meet….himself soon after. Willis, in traditional Willis fashion, is pretty much a hardcore badass, and proves it immediately when he is warped to the spot where he is supposed to be executed. He quickly gets out of that situation and socks Current Joe in the mouth and knocks him out until its dark out. So Bruce Willis is pretty much just playing Bruce Willis in this movie. This is when the story really takes off and I started buying into it, and yeah, Willis helps that greatly (though, nothing at all against Gordon-Levitt, I love that guy, hell I even saw Premium Rush in theaters), but now things are getting interesting. See, it was Willis’ plan to come back 30 years anyways, to go after this dude called….*sigh*….The Rainmaker. Not to be confused with that stupid John Grisham novel/movie with MATT DAY-MUN! but just…just a really bad choice for a bad guy name, is all. Just call him EVIL MAN or THE BAD DUDE instead for gods sake, Rainmaker is just…just terrible. But I digress. So this guy is the reason why so many Loopers have been “closing their loops” lately (killing their future selves, the fancy name for it), because he doesn’t want to have these guys running around anymore, and *sigh* The RAINMAKER is wanting to run the show himself, no more mob business, he wants to make it a one-man show. And Willis has this list of three houses where the Rainmaker could be, as a kid, and well, he’s gonna kill him, cute little cherubic face be damned, he’s got business to attend to. And damned if current Joe is gonna screw that up. So we get a couple cool action scenes but ultimately the point is to get Joe to his first house, and Current Joe to the third house, that he tore the coordinates off of Joe’s map in a very cool restaurant battle that ends up with both of them getting away. By the way the main motivation for old Joe to be doing this is, of course, a girl. Isn’t it always? And we see his motivation, and understand it, during one of the best segments of the entire movie – we see what Joe did with his 30 years, if he had just went through with killing his future self. Essentially, hes a junkie and an all around not good guy. He ends up being a gun for hire who pisses his money away on this eye dropper drug which I figure to be like a sort of easier version of heroin, the new designer drug of the 2040s. He pretty much wastes the first 25 years…until he meets a beautiful asian girl while he’s in a bar fight. This is her – , played by Qing Xu, and its easy to see how she could save a washed up junkie like Joe if she so desired. So the last five years of his life are naturally spent in happiness with her, with her cleaning him up and essentially saving a wasted life, except, oh snap, he only had five years left before the bad dudes come get him anyways. So come get him they do, and gosh darnit, if they don’t kill her in the process of doing of it too. Well, he needs to have motivation doesn’t he? So as they bag him and send him for processing, he wastes all those dudes and, being the hardcore Bruce Willis type he is, he jumps in the time machine anyways, a man on a mission.

Alright so now we have the motivation for the second half of the movie, which moves a lot faster than the somewhat plodding first half, but hey, we gotta have exposition, everyone loves exposition! It’s a cool word at least. Well, Old Joe is on a mission to find these people who could be the….*sigh*, the RAINMAKER, and new Joe is off into the woods hiding from all the goons after him cuz he didn’t shoot his future self. Enter two varying futures here, and new Joe meets Emily Blunt’s character, Sara. Sidenote that I like that no one has fancy names in this movie, implying that these are all just common people trying to survive in a pretty screwed up world, while sometimes I think it tried too hard I DID like seeing the mostly bleak city life that everyone struggles through, and how no one owns a new car and most everything is outdated and unoriginal. A nice touch. But anyways, Emily Blunt at first seems to play the stereotypical “tough gal doin’ right by her family” role, but since its her, thankfully there is much more to her. Emily Blunt, much like Jennifer Lawrence, can’t be pigeon holed into a supporting role either and its good that she is given a lot to work with in Looper. She has a son, that calls her Sara, so naturally the plot thickens there. I’m not going to ruin everything here for you like I am oft to do in my past two reviews, but naturally, her kid here is the third candidate to be the Rainmaker. The kid, played by Pierce Gagnon, who apparently played on One Tree Hill, a show remembered by hopefully no one,  is fantastic. You instantly get the vibe that this kid is tough and is going to be something original to this world, and of course he is, because hes the last candidate to be The Rainmaker. You’d sure thing with all that gusto and coolness this kid has though that he would have created a way better nickname than that, though. I mean, hell I’d even have settled for X, or Timelord, man…I could just come up with better names all day long. But naturally, this is where things are going to come to a head with old Joe and new Joe.

Old Joe does some incredibly questionable things here, and all for love – in short, he kills a kid. And plans to kill a couple more by the end of the day, to save his future. Awesome (not, you know, that he wants to kill kids, but, the whole idea that although old Joe was redeemed, he has never been a good man and keeps very well within the anti-hero guidelines) that he continues on with his mission, damn the consequences. A odd and pretty much pointless physical relationship develops between Sara and new Joe on her farm, and he becomes friends with the kid. The goon squad finds him eventually of course however, and things come to a head. And this, my friends, sets up one of the most awesome special effects scenes I have seen in a movie in quite a few years. So yeah, turns out her kid is the man himself, he’s whose gonna become the rainmaker, and HOLY SWEET MOTHER OF GOD does he have an awesome power. I don’t think I mentioned that telekinesis is something that people evolved into in 2044 in this movie. But the kick in the pants is, its essentially a parlor trick. People can float a quarter around in the air for a bit if they concentrate. Sara can make a lighter do some neat tricks. But is isn’t a big deal really, until this SUPER AWESOME KID comes about, and I won’t ruin it, but lets just say he completely MESSES THE GOON’S WHOLE FREAKIN WORLD UP. I think he even saw the curvature of the earth….too obscure of a joke there? Don’t care, I’m keepin’ it. So obviously, this kid has what it takes to protect his mom, she doesn’t even need that measly ol shotgun, dude can screw things up with his MIND, SWEET.

And then we have Bruce Willis continuing on his quest being Bruce Willis and killing pretty much the entire mob single-handedly, which I buy, cuz hes Bruce Willis, and then he goes to the final house on his map to meet up with New Joe and tell him to piss off, because he’s safe now, no one else is coming after him. He can even have a big pile of money, mighty white of him there. Well that doesn’t quite pan out how it should, and the ending to this movie nearly makes the movie for me. Spoiler alert – it’s kind of a downer. Which of course is why I loved it, but man, I tell you what, I did NOT see it coming, and that is impressive for a movie that I thought was going to be predictable at first.
One last note – the more I thought about this movie the more I liked it, and I think the main reason was because ultimately, much of this movie came down to the power of women in our lives. Joe has mommy issues – it’s established early on, and although I still don’t like or buy the brief physical relationship he has with Sara, it kinda makes sense because she herself is a powerful mother figure (wow, switch a few letters around there and we’d have had a much naughtier word than mother figure there, man I’m childish), and of course the beautiful asian woman that old Joe did everything to save was another motherly person because she saved his life. Women, although seemingly relegated to the back burner so that the men can fight it out and shoot at each other, are actually the main focus of this movie, at least in my humble and incredibly long-winded opinion. And being a lover of women myself and thinking about how much they have affected this life of mine, I really like that idea.

 

The verdict –

 

The verdict –

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