***1/2 (out of 5)
September 28, 2012
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as JOE
Bruce Willis as OLD JOE
Emily Blunt as SARA
Paul Dano as SETH
Noah Segan as KID BLUE
Piper Perabo as SUZIE
Jeff Daniels as ABE
Pierce Gagnon as CID
Directed by: Rian Johnson
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Like any good piece of speculative fiction, “Looper” can’t be boiled down into a short plot blurb. Sure, you can say, “It’s about time travel and hit men,” but like Woody Allen once said, that would be like saying “War and Peace” was about Russia. For a more modern and cinematic comparison, it would be like saying “Inception” was about dreaming.
The overall premise is rather simple: The year is 2044, and time travel won’t be invented for another 30 yeas. It’s illegal in the future, but organized crime uses it to send back in time people they want killed in order to hide their bodies. Hit men in the “present day,” known as Loopers, kill the person and dispose of the bodies. One looper named Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) discovers that his latest hit is himself 30 years older (Bruce Willis). The old Joe escapes, and Joe has to chase him down to set things right with his bosses.
Okay, it’s still not terribly simple, but there’s even more to it than this. To avoid any more spoilers, I’ll be vague about the plot because like good science fiction, this film should be experienced knowing as little about it as possible.
Don’t worry. The plot won’t melt your brain. If you were able to handle “Inception” or “Source Code” without a problem, you should be fine with “Looper.” I never thought those movies were very difficult to understand, but we all read the news stories about how people just couldn’t follow “Inception.” If you’re one of those people, you might want to take notes. If you’re smarter than those people, you’ll still need to pay attention and realize that this isn’t an oversimplified mainstream Hollywood script.
The best thing I can say about “Looper” is that it’s different. There hasn’t been a movie quite like it, even though it has scenes and themes that we’ve seen before in movies like “The Terminator,” “Blade Runner” and some of the “X-Men” films. It’s also not terribly different and unique to the well-read science fiction fan, considering this sort of intelligent speculative fiction has been around in print form for quite some time.
Still, “Looper” is a different experience for the moviegoing audience. It manages to keep itself grounded in some form of reality while working well within the genre. At times it plays like an action film, other times a crime drama and other times an interpersonal character study.
The biggest stumbling points in the film are when director Rian Johnson slows down and lets his character prattle on too long with dialogue. He did the same thing with his freshman feature “Brick,” which makes both films feel like they drag too much. While I liked “Looper” more than “Brick,” had these moments been scaled back, this would have made a good film into a fantastic film.
One of the treats of this movie is seeing Joseph Gordon-Levitt become a young Bruce Willis (because Willis is too stingy of an actor to ask him to become an older Joseph Gordon-Levitt). The kid has Willis’ mannerisms down perfectly, giving us a look at one of the best actor-pretending-to-be-actor since John Travolta and Nicolas Cage played each other in “Face Off” (and those impressions being the only entertaining thing about that movie).
There is a bit too much make-up effects done on Gordon-Levitt to give him Willis’ physical structure. At times he starts to resonate as a younger Kirk Cameron than a younger Bruce Willis. But I’m willing to look past that, all things considered.
Other fine performances come from Emily Blunt, though she’s a source of the more long-winded dialogue scenes, and Piper Perabo who flashes some skin, which is always nice to see. Jeff Daniels also throws down as an unlikely friendly crime boss from the future.
“Looper” isn’t going to make my best-of-the-year list, and it’s not even my favorite movie I’ve seen recently. However, it’s definitely worth a look and deserves more interest than it will probably get in wide release.