Looper – Rian Johnson – 2012

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Rian Johnson’s Looper is sure to please, but I’m not drinking the kool-aid quite as deeply as everyone else. Did I like it? Yes. It’s very clever and cool. Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon=Levitt are a dream on screen. But it has a few clunky moments and beats, and therefore I cannot call it a masterpiece; yet it is still a very likeable film.

Joe is a piece of shit killer. The kill montage at the beginning and the sound edit of the blunderbuss firing are amazing. I was very disturbed. And when the first guy fails to close his loop, and the resulting consequences of that failure…I was almost standing on my chair it was so awesome.  But really, what it boils down to is what I call the Zissou effect. If anybody but Bill Murray plays Steve Zissou, the guy is hate-worthy. The same can be said of Joe. He’s a greedy, junkie murderer, and old Joe is just as selfish. These guys are really hard to root for.

I cannot fault the world building here. Johnson creates a 2044 rich with detail and life, in a very transportative manner.  The drugs, the loopers, its all the kind of rich stuff film geeks love to examine under the microscope. But it is precisely the lack of an in-point, a relatable character that sets the film back a step. Neither the farm gal or her kid is very likeable; in fact, Kid Blue and Abe are actually the most affable characters in the whole story.

That being said, one asshole is trying to stop another asshole from ruining his future. And the second asshole is trying to get the first asshole from ruining the world. Somewhere in here children are threatened and or killed, in beats that I thought were great and really gave the story stakes. And then the third act rolls around.

From the minute JGL ends up on that farm with his piece of map, you know Bruce Willis will end up there, and this dissolves a fair amount of tension. Once the lines in the sand are drawn, I found it fairly elementary the solution to Joe’s problem, the problem is, once I figured out what young Joe should do, the film went on another thirty minutes before he figures it out. This is a case of trying to build tension when you’ve already shot your load. Once I knew how to solve the problem, the story kind of deflated for me a bit.

This is not to mention the selfish nature of the trio of leads, at least Emily Blunt in her role as ‘mother who doubled back on her past to care for future generations’, is a reflection of Joe’s duality. He is literally doubling back on his own past not to save his child, but save his future. Young Joe picks chaos over order, an unknown future to a known one, but really is that even a realistic choice? All we can really do is recognize the chaos and the order, and attempting to collate and quantify these things ends up with diagrams and straws, and we’re here all fucking day.

Ultimately, Looper is a great audience film, full of crowd-pleasing moments and sequences. The internal logic is fairly sound and the world built is smart and cool. I just wish the third act could have been as creepy and unpredictable as the first two.

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