Sci-fi thriller can't solve its loopholes
in time in 'Looper'
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis,
As time-travel suspense thrillers go, "Looper"
is only a pinch better than mediocre.
The make-up that Joseph Gordon-Levitt wears
to make him look like a young Bruce Willis is
such a distraction that it alienates the viewer.
Our unreliable protagonist Joe (Gordon-Levitt)
is a paid assassin whose job is to execute hired
killers sent 30 years back in time to the year
2072. Joe uses an unwieldy gun called a "blunderbuss"
for the close-range killings he frequently commits
next to an abandoned cornfield. Joe dreams of
using all the silver bars of payment he's been
stashing for a move to France. The aspirational
sidebar allows Gordon-Levitt's character to
indulge in some less than academic French language
study that hits the screen with a thud.
If writer-director Rian Johnson ("Brick")
has done any homework, he has spent the lion's
share of it on packaging a movie incapable of
living up to its top-heavy casting.
From the opening scene, Joe's detrimental voice-over
narration reduces the storyline to a remedial
level. In the future, "time travel is illegal,"
Joe tells us. Only a group of dimwitted mobsters
are capable of using advanced time-travel technology
to their own nefarious ends. Smart people don't
exist in Rian Johnson's version of the future.
The generic criminals do a bustling business burying
the bodies of aging loopers in the past where
young loopers enter the cycle of self-destruction
by killing off their elders. It's called "closing
the loop." Failing to off your elder version
when the time comes is a big no-no for any self-respecting
looper. Forget that the gangsters in charge could
easily avoid such a polarizing event if they only
sent victims back in time to be killed by discrete
assassins rather than by their own doppelgŠngers.
This glaring loophole is especially significant
since a looper sent back in time could theoretically
change the course of the future if they survive.
Detail-oriented audiences will have a field day
making lists of such narrative inconsistencies.
The filmmakers tip their low-budget hand by never
showing the much-referred-to future that so many
assassins are sent back from. Rian Johnson is
no Philip K. Dick. In a story ripe with capacity
for some amount of searing social commentary,
there is next to none.
Joe gets thrown a curveball when his 30-years-older
model (played by Bruce Willis) shows up for assassination.
Naturally, Joe does his best not to murder his
older self in spite of his vicious boss Abe's
(Jeff Daniels) order to the contrary. Abe's mob
boys are hot on the trail of both Joes. Instead
of teaming up to change the future for their life
expectancies, the two Joes trade insults in a
diner over coffee. The scene is notable for how
inferior it is compared to what Hollywood hacks
crank out on a weekly basis. Needless to say,
Rian Johnson doesn't make much of Quentin Tarantino
An unsatisfying subplot involving a single mother
(well played by Emily Blunt) and her telepathically
gifted but volatile young son unbalances the drama.
Older Joe suspects the boy of being a child version
of a 22nd century baddie called "the Rainmaker,"
who may or may not be such a worrisome force of
He is also hung up on an Asian woman who saved
his life and wants young Joe to intercept her
murderer when the time comes.
The narrative material doesn't match the visual
effects in "Looper." From the start,
Joe is introduced as a character we can never
fully empathize with. He betrays a friend before
shuffling off in the direction of a story that
further impugns his character as anything other
than a narcissist. Even the selfless act Joe commits
during his crisis decision comes with a grain
of martyrdom. If you can get past plot holes that
pass by like highway mile markers, and you can
put up with Joseph Gordon-Levitt's weird make-up,
then you're halfway to enjoying a generic genre
B-movie. Bon chance. CV