Looper is the type of high concept, wanna-be bitchin’ but ultimately flawed sci-fi film that I’ve seen all too often.
In the film, men called loopers are hired in the present (which is 2044, Kansas) to kill people sent back in time. Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is what appears to be a common looper. His mob boss gives him a time, he goes to a field, waits for a body to appear out of thin air, pulls the trigger, disposes of the body, drinks with his buddies, does drugs, sleeps with his stripper of choice. Wake up. Repeat.
What works. A great deal. Looper is written and directed by Rian Johnson, that very rare director who is A.) American, B.) A sci-fi filmmaker C.) A guy who actually has something new to say. The man has talent, which was evident in his gloriously stylistic debut, Brick (but, admittedly, not as clear in his follow up, The Brothers Bloom). At any rate, his Looper has a sincere, fresh vision. It’s a groovy idea mixed with thrilling action, believable special effects, and enough subtle humor to amuse but not overstate.
What doesn’t work. A quote: “I don't want to talk about time travel because if we start talking about it then we're going to be here all day talking about it, making diagrams with straws.”
This quote, which Willis’ character says to Gordon-Levitt midway through the picture, perfectly sums up everything I don’t like about the film. If you’re going to make a movie about time travel, then make a fuckin’ movie about time travel. Don’t give half ass explanations to things you know are going to be confusing via a single line of amusing dialogue. Lines like that (and another one that Young Joe’s boss, played by Jeff Daniels, utters early) are simply lazy. Johnson is hoping that by addressing the complexities of time travel with throwaway lines like those, we’ll forgive the film of its indiscretions. Maybe some people can, but stuff like that lingers in my head and all but ruins the rest of the film for me.
So, in short, if you’re willing to meet Looper (at least) half way, then I imagine you’ll enjoy yourself. I’ve purposefully skirted around much of the plot, because the film is good enough to not be spoiled in a review. That says something. In my mind, Looper isn’t quite as good of a film I suspect Johnson and Co. want it to be, but it’s a worthy addition to a unique, American voice. B-