Looper (FilmDistrict, R)

looper 75Mostly, it’s just loud and long and poorly done and crappy looking.

 

looper 500

There are a lot of reasons to be looking forward to Looper, but perhaps chief among them is that it is the first film from promising young director Rian Johnson since 2008’s The Brothers Bloom. Johnson put himself on the map with Brick in 2005, and now Looper is being given a big push. This is generally a good sign: It had a decent-sized budget, is getting a big marketing push, and, like The Brothers Bloom, has a great cast—among other things, it reteams Johnson with his Brick star Joseph Gordon-Levitt (whose adult career Johnson deserves some credit for, as Brick was the film that helped many people cast off their 3rd Rock from the Sun memories).

The problem is that, although Johnson began his film career amazingly well with Brick, Brothers Bloom was a big step down—and now Looper is another look in the rear-view. Looper has shades of other movies and things you probably like—Back to the Future, Memento, Inception, TV’s Lost—but it never reaches those heights (and I don’t even like Inception or Lost). Mostly, it’s just loud and long and poorly done and crappy looking.

Gordon-Levitt plays Joe, a looper, which is hard to explain, but is more or less a time-traveling assassin. Wait, that’s not quite right—more of an assassin of time travelers. Who were forced to time travel. To the past. So that a looper can assassinate them. Anyway, why they’re called “loopers” is because they’re generally called on at some point to assassinate the future version of themselves, so as to tie up loose ends and bury secrets and stuff. You learn all of this type of stuff from a lot of expository voiceover toward the beginning of the film, and I doubt you’ll be able to make yourself care enough to pay close attention to just how all of it is supposed to work.

Thanks to an unwanted run-in with his friend Seth (Paul Dano), Joe learns that some shit’s going down in the future, in the same time period as people sent back so he can kill them. Among other things, he’s finding that a new superpower is having all of the loopers “close their loop” (e.g., kill the future version of themselves) all at once. Around the same time, Joe has to assassinate someone who is probably him—played by Bruce Willis—and who Gordon-Levitt is half-assedly made to look like via a prosthetic nose and weird eyebrows. You can probably guess that the assassination doesn’t go as planned, given that the role was filled by Bruce Willis. They wouldn’t just kill him off after two seconds of screen time, would they? And that’s indicative of one of Looper’s most glaring problems: Despite being intentionally confusing and hard to follow, it’s also awfully predictable; I wasn’t surprised by anything that happened in the movie after the first five minutes or so.

Along the way to figuring out what’s going on in the future, and how to stop it without messing everything else up, there are some friendly faces, such as Jeff Daniels as Joe’s boss Abe, or a Southern-American-accented Emily Blunt as Sara, at whose house Joe stays for a while. And while I like those actors and they do a fine job here, it’s just not near enough to get me to remotely care about any of the actual characters. Or to look past the dopey effects. Or to follow the faux-intellectual Hollywood horseshit that Inception’s success will continue to spawn in the form of countless other imitators. | Pete Timmermann

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