Science-fictiony time travel plots are as popular in movies as junior mints and tubs of popcorn. In some instances, the way you go is not as important as why. (I’ve done some discourse on this in the past because I always welcome a chance to throw a little vitriol at Midnight in Paris). Pithy sayings aside, sometimes it is the destination and to hell with the journey. How you get there isn’t really the most important thing if the question is “If you could go back in time, would you kill Hitler?”

Okay, it doesn’t have to be Hitler. It could be Jack the Ripper (Time After Time), A Fictional But Very Bad Presidential Candidate Who Will Start a Nuclear War (The Dead Zone) or everyone’s favorite, John Connor (The Terminator 1, 2, 3 & 4). On celluloid, people have been traveling back in time for years to try and take out really bad people . (Okay, John Connor was actually the hero but Arnold Schwarzenegger was too busy screwing his maid to realize that.)

Looper, the latest in the time-travel genre, uses this premise as the future mob’s way of getting rid of its used up assassins. The hired killers they trained in the year 2044 are pretty much useless by the time they get to 2074, so they send them back to the past and have their crack team of killers take them out. It’s comforting to know that a cornfield in Kansas is going to look exactly the same in the future as it does now, even if it has a dead body laying on a tarp in it. Things get a bit complicated, though, when the present day looper (Joseph Gordon-Leavitt) has to shoot the future version of himself; especially since that version turns out to be Bruce Willis. They’ve done some prosthetic work on Gordon-Leavitt to make him look like a young Bruce and he’s got the voice down pat, but I have to believe he was upset when he realized what was going to happen to his hairline over the next thirty years.

The looper concept is really clever and the first half of the film does a good job of explaining how the whole thing works. The seedy clubs and backrooms that are populated by the killers have a bleakness about them makes me wonder why all futuristic films are so grim – where are the flying cars and cooking robots? The Jetsons made it look like so much fun. The influences of today such as Tarantino and Mad Men show up in this future because it’s incredibly violent and the guys still wear skinny ties. Once the Young and Old come in contact with each other, it becomes clear that Old Bruce has come back in time to kill the child who grows up to become the head of the mob in the future.

Unfortunately, this is where the film starts to derail. No matter how bad the mob kingpin is in the future, it’s hard to root for Old Bruce when he’s running around taking out 7 year olds. There’s a complicated subplot involving Emily Blunt and her “is he or isn’t he” her son, and then it just gives up and becomes The Terminator 2. Emily Blunt’s character is so enabling that you don’t doubt that her weird kid is going to grow up to cause trouble, but the ending seems false given the way the Old and Young loopers have behaved up to that point.

I’m really tired of movies where stylized violence has become a selling point. I’d like to see them remake this film using the looper concept, but instead of blowing all the characters away with huge guns, maybe the cooking robots could come back and teach all the ATMs how to make delicious casseroles using sustainable root vegetables. And the robots would all sound like Julia Child and they would secretly be spies . . . I have to go write this down.

Barf Bag Rating: ZERO BAGS

2 thoughts on “Looper

  1. Xan

    Hear hear on getting rid of the brutality in these films. I can’t go see them anymore because I just can’t take the violence. For evidence that it is still possible to make an engaging, tense thriller with very only plot-driven violence and no brutality, check out the other JGL movie that just came out, Premium Rush. (but keep the barf bags ready for handheld cams on bikes while riding through Manhattan).

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