Thursday, October 18, 2012

REVIEW: Looper (2012)

When I saw the trailer for this movie, the only thing I had to know to get me HYPED was that it was about a time-travel organization that sends people back to the past so a hitman can shoot them. The fact that it had Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing a future and present version of the same person – made problematic by the fact that Willis, the future self, was sent back in time for his past-self, Levitt, to assassinate – was only icing on the cake. It took me many months of waiting for it to come out and many weeks of trying to find free time to see it AND…it’s OK.

Director: Rian Johnson
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis

Yeah. Just OK. I really wish I could say this movie was the next masterpiece, and that it would end up on my year’s Top 10 List, but Looper is sadly just a solid movie, with some pros weighed out by some cons.

I like the atmosphere this movie has – the whole dystopian future with tropes of the Wild West and the 1940s mob era. It’s seriously cool, and done subtly enough so that it doesn’t feel like a cartoon like Repo or Sin City, so everything does have a very gritty and hard-assed feel to it that doesn’t come off as contrived. Maybe this grimy, crime-ridden hellhole of a future is a little too over the top dark at points, but mostly I got used to it ten minutes in and accepted the setting as naturally dark and seedy. I always hate when movies act like the future will be inevitably shittier than today’s world – it’s fear-mongering crap and lazy writing to boot, but Looper pulls it off fairly well.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one of the greatest actors working today, only lately he just hasn’t been picking parts that show that talent. He was pretty annoying in The Dark Knight Rises and in this he does OK, but really I think director Rian Johnson was more focused on getting a good Bruce Willis impression out of him rather than a good performance. Still pretty fun to watch, even though it’s kind of like watching a kid dressing up as his favorite movie star for Halloween.

The plot about time-travel assassins and a more efficient way to dispose of bodies is really cool, and had a lot of potential. For a while it’s very well done, and bright spots pop up until the very end of the film, but overall it’s kind of baggy and unfocused. The first half hour is set in the grungy, dirty city and focuses on Levitt’s everyday life, and we learn some stuff about the organization of “loopers” that kill people sent from the future. It’s a lot to buy, but eh, at least it’s interesting a little bit…and there’s some stuff about ‘psychic’ kids who can do minor telekinesis stuff.

After Willis is introduced, it basically becomes a different movie. I mean it’s like night and day…suddenly we see a whole future for Levitt’s character in which he grows up into Bruce Willis and gets married to a beautiful woman, who is accidentally killed when the “looper” organization comes to call for him. So he escapes and runs back to the past to kill the kingpin who ordered him captured in the first place, thinking if he can do that, then his wife won’t be killed. Unfortunately, in Levitt’s time period, all the people who might be the kingpin called the Rainmaker are little children, and so we get a bunch of scenes of child murder in the middle of the movie. Bet you didn’t expect that!

After that we get introduced to some other characters, namely a mother and her son living on a farm in the middle of nowhere, of which the son is one of the kids Willis is hunting. Levitt hides out with them aiming to protect them and kill Willis when he shows up. We get some decent character development, a few commercial scenes like Levitt and the woman having sex, and some scenes to show how the child is psychic and can’t control it yet. It’s all pretty standard stuff for a set-up like this, and is done rather well, though I would have liked something a little less mainstream-y. Oh well.

The climax is pretty good, although it gets pretty pretentious as well, but the whole movie kind of was anyway, with lots of very self-indulgent camerawork and the whole thing being rather into itself. The pretension does make this a grander, more epic film than it would have been otherwise, but I wish the movie itself had been stronger to compensate that.

Overall I think this was more suited to be a three or four-part TV special on HBO or something rather than a feature film, as it just feels disjointed and cluttered and ultimately too long, even at only two hours – there have been longer movies this year by far, but Looper just kind of drags, with a few pointless characters and over-long scenes not aiding that fact. I have no qualms with the story or characters except that they could have been serviced with a better movie to make their depth more apparent – here we mostly just get a straightforward and frankly dull approach that neuters what complexity there could have been with a plot like this. Looper is entertaining, but it’s entertaining mostly in spite of itself, and for a better Rian Johnson-directed flick starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, I’d recommend Brick.

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