Looper (2012) – Rian Johnson (Dir.), Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Jeff Daniels

It’s like JGL is being reflected by a mirror that makes you look like you were in “Death Becomes Her” and never recovered.

Sometimes, as a fake online journalist/opinionator/random offer-of-the-mouth, a movie comes along with such headline potential that you simply cannot leave it alone. Every internally rhyming play on words stews beneath your surface, a molten sea of steaming low-brow-ity finding any all cracks in a writer’s dignity to burst forth in an eruption of such groan-worthy punnery that readers’ faces are literally (and I use that word accurately here) reduced to melting the fuck off in the fear that any more turdalicious wit might follow. And sometimes, you must indulge those urges and gurgitate (it’s like regurgitate but the contents of the vomitous mess have already been digested before even seeing the light of day) the worst jokes of your life. It is my duty, as an asshole, to step into terribleness.

LOOPER WAS SUPER!

LOOPER AIN’T NO POOPER SCOOPER!

LOOPER IS CHRIS COOPER! (in that it’s quite good and memorable, but not THAT good or THAT memorable)

Alright, now that’s out of the way we can get on with our lives. Yes, I enjoyed the shit out of Looper. And, for once, that was an accurate hyperbole because I even enjoy some of the more fecally-repugnant moments (not that there were many). PLOT TIME: Looper is Rian Johnson (The Brothers Bloom, Brick, that one episode of Breaking Bad that everyone either loves or fucking hates) dipping his dick into the delightfully dangerous pot of sci-fi nonsense. Joseph Gordon-my-future-boyfriend-not-sure-where-that-came-from-Levitt plays a ‘Looper’ (see what he did there?). Apparently, it’s incredibly difficult to kill people in the future (unless you shoot them in China and then burn their house) so criminals in the future use the most incredible invention that humans could ever possibly stumble upon not to go back and make a shit ton of money or to help them take over the world…but dispose of bodies in farms. JGL shoots the temporal-interlopers, makes money, with the eventual goal of murdering himself 30 years in the future, thereby ‘closing the loop’. It sounds cheesy and, well, it kind of is. It also doesn’t make a goddamn lick of sense, but we’ll get back to that later.

So the plot, like cottage cheese left in the sun too long, thickens. Turns out, in the future, not the near future in which the movie is set, but the far away future where not-the-movie is set, there is this dude called the Rainmaker who is murdering all the Loopers. You know, fulfilling the contracts that they signed. And like the similarly named Rain Man, this Rainmaker is a terrifying dude. He can count cards and reinvigorate Tom Cruise’s career (well, nothing so nefarious as that.) Well, when JGL wearing someone else’s face comes across a man with no hair and the look of a being whose soul had been sucked out of his ass by Demi Moore, he hesitates and gets his shit wrecked. Bruce Willis, as future JGL, goes on a rampage trying to murder child he believes to be this ‘Rainmaker’ and JGL, or past Bruce Willis (with decidedly more hair than Die Hard Bruce, but less than Hudson Hawke Bruce), tries to murder him. And then everything takes place on a farm with a farmhand (Emily Blunt) bonerific enough that even Willis might get it up again (low blow? What I’m saying is that he looks like a man who hates his life, his choices, and the fact that he still has a career that, like the T-Virus, is a constantly reanimating force that seeps through his decomposing corpse and drags him back into a world that would probably be better living only with his memory. Did you even see the trailer of A Good Day to Die Hard? Man looks like fucking Nosferatu).

Joe! What happened to your face? It looks like the prosthetics fairy vomited on you while you were asleep!

This is a good movie. It isn’t going to win any awards, nor will it be particularly remembered for any good reason. However, every aspect is so well constructed that you can’t help but marvel at the fact that nothing is really that frustrating about it. The acting is exactly what it needs to be, for the most part. We have Jeff Daniels doing his best to look like a mob-boss who specializes in drinking his own urine and wrestling abominable snowmen, Emily Blunt offering cuss-words and shotgun blasts left right and center, and Joe Levitt being dreamy  quite good. Even Bruce Willis seems as though he’s actually trying. I KNOW. It’s like sitting in a room with a catatonic family member, assuming that they really have nothing left to live for before we pull the plug…and then they leap out of their chair and start yelling in your face about time travel. You don’t have time or prescience to judge whether or not the speech is any good or particularly affecting, you’re just ball-assed stunned that the fucker is moving at all. Seeing Willis act reminded me why I like the guy. I don’t care for the Willis who seems perpetually carved out of an intensely depressed piece of concrete, displaying about one and a half expressions for a two hour runtime. I like the guy yelling ‘yippee-ki-yay’, making wise-cracks, and screaming as he jumps out of skyscraper windows.

Rian Johnson is a man who knows what he’s doing. One of my favorite movies in recent years is the bowler-hat-wearing-quirktastic-jerk-fest-Rachel-Weisz-marry-me that was The Brothers Bloom. Equal parts hilarious and poignant, thrilling and silly, classy and basal, it’s one of the oddest movies you’ll see for quite some time. Luckily, he transferred his wit to this otherwise growl-fest of a film and injected some of the more brutal moments with slivers of tasteful irony and meta winks. His vision of the future is carefully restrained and shockingly plausible (with perhaps the exception of telekinesis thrown into the mix) and, even when we make it to the ‘further away future than the rest of the film future, which is still in the future, but not quite as far away’, or FAFTTROTFFWISITFBNQAFA for short, the whole thing seems like a simple expansion of where we currently are. Johnson seems to have learned from the mistakes of past sci-fi writers that our exponential acceleration into a technological dreamscape isn’t quite what has occurred over the past decade and a half…most likely due to the rise of media-focused devices and the Internet (I’m not going to win a Nobel for saying this, LOLcats are hindering us as a species. Fucking cats.) So, seeing a world that still kinda makes sense with a few extra gizmos is delightfully refreshing (and, handily, cuts down on the budget. Huzzah!) I mean, things get fairly incongruous when you actually begin considering the implications of the fact that the future has time-travel…and yet all they use it for, instead of say killing Hitler, getting A’s on history projects with the help of Abraham Lincoln and Billy the Kid, or making sure dinosaurs still exist as human pets and/or terrible lizard butlers (I’d call mine Mr. Tyrone-a-saurus Penniweather Rex, also, he will have tails and a monocle) they just send dudes back to die. Hmm. Also, telekinesis? Sure! Why not?

And there is the rub, as they say in Elizabethan England. This movie walks a line, carefully and flagrantly, sometimes dipping its toes into the sea of boiling, furious nerd-sauce and sometimes leaping about in the waters of ’emotional accessibility’ (yes, those are two distinct and incompatible groups). This is a matter of great concern and thought for me. As a lover of science-fiction, I’ve become trapped so often in the past trying to decide whether or not to exclude films from my opinions because of their weak-ass attempts to incorporate ‘science-y things’. I used to be one of those people who, when in the presence of snot-nosed plebs that declare Star Wars as real science-fiction, I’d slap them across the face and bark ,’Mom, you ignorant slut!’ And then I’d get grounded. For though those bellicose celestial bodies may be fantasy, they exude no interest in science, technology or a basic understanding of how humans interact with either and thus negates the series’ claim of being part of the sci-fi lexicon. It’s medieval in space. That’s what it is. 2001: A Space Odyssey, when you manage to agonizingly crawl past the technicolor acid trip at the end, is hard sci-fi. It considers big questions about human nature vs. that of a computer. Science! One of my favorite examples of a hard sci-fi movie would be Singing in the Rain. If we whittle the definition to its basic parts, sci-fi is simply the exploration of how advancements in technology affect human behavior and create an emotional impact. It’s a movie about how talkies destroyed old silent film actors. Science!

“Freeze! I was in Cop Out! Not that it’s applicable to this situation, I was simply attempting to spread awareness of that fact!” ~ Bruce Willis forced into self-promotion after firing his publicist.

So, what is Looper? It’s soft sci-fi. Not in that it’s limp and flaccid, but more in terms of focus. If you squint hard or spread vaseline around the camera lens (ala every Barbara Walters interview since her sixth facelift) the thing looks like science fiction, tastes like science fiction, even sounds like it with flying motorbikes and little children screaming the insides of dude all over the living room (that part was fucking awesome). But, the rules don’t make sense. Let’s compare Looper to another true Willis classic, 12 Monkeys. Granted, that movie is nuttier than squirrel turds. However, Terry Gilliam’s Monty Python film penis aside, it deals with time travel in a semi-plausible fashion. Yes, the idea that humans have enough resources to create one of the most difficult and implausible machines ever devised but are incapable of finding a fucking vaccine for a virus is slightly further in the bat-shit category than I’d be willing to admit…and Brad Pitt seems more likely to eat his own feces than in any other role (other than, perhaps, Ocean’s 11…he’s always eating! There’s only a matter of time, statistically speaking, before he experiments with his own biological waste), 12 Monkeys approaches time travel in an intelligent fashion. In many ways, it’s about people trying to change the past and, in doing so, only make it come to being because, as the laws of causality are, there is no way to alter the path that brought you to where you are. It has already happened. Oh, spoilers, but whatever. If you haven’t seen it, shame on you. The characters’ main objective isn’t to stop the virus from escaping, it’s to learn as much as possible from its beginning so as to inform their search for a cure. Makes sense right?

Now…Looper. Oh Loopie Looper. Bruce Willis wants to change the past. And he does…and, in doing so, his memories change according to the shifts. What the what? But…but…by changing his choices…he’s changed who he is…why would his memories change? And why did old Paul Dano not already have a nose (most chilling sequence in the whole fucking movie) and…and…ARGH. HEAD-A-SPLODE.

THAT ISN’T HOW TIME TRAVEL WORKS!

You know who doesn’t have a fuck in the world to give? Like…he could have the world’s stockpile of fucks in a locked safe, more than even Charlie Sheen would ever know what to do with, and a poor virgin, searching for his only salvation: a single, solitary, flying (for some reason) fuck comes crawling to his door and he turns him away like the fuck miser he is? Rian Muther-Not-Giving-a-Fucking Johnson. He jokes about it. He don’t give a shit about what nerd panties are filled with causality-rage-turds. You know what he does do? He defines his rules. He sets his parameters. And, if not for one very large plothole, he sticks to them. I could walk to Mr. Johnson, slap him with my comically miniature nerd penis and declare ,”You, sir, are incorrect!” And he shall turn to me and demand, “By whose metrics? Yours? That you made up? Based on something that is completely impossible anyway?” And I’d say, “Um…I guess. I mean it makes sense…” and he returns with, “Ah, to you, my young padawan. But remember, this is all silly make believe and, in my world, this is how time travel operates.” And I’d say, “But that’s not how…” and he says “MY WORLD” and I’d say “But…” and he’d scream “MY FUCKING WORLD. NOT YOURS. MINE. MINE. MINE. MINE.” And then he’d take my lunch money and I’d run home to my mommy crying about an indie film director bullying me with his irrefutable logic.

“I once pooped in Dumb and Dumber. I pooped a LOT.” ~ Jeff Daniels, proud of his accomplishments

What Johnson does, instead of adhering to all these fucking logical rules and declarations by a singular community, is something commendable. He tells a fucking story. Isn’t that novel! With the backdrop of his fantasy rules, he creates a fascinating dichotomy within a single character. Joe, (JGL and BDubs) are simultaneously the antagonist and the protagonist…and yet you’re not always sure which one is which. They both have clear motivations, whether it be deep seeded selfishness or love of a woman, and they are both equally compelling. Ultimately, after the shooting and the violence and the little kid blowing everything up with a scream, the movie becomes about a singular theme. Imagine that, mutherfuckers. We have a clear goddamn theme with clear goddamn characters with clear goddamn arcs. People, take fucking note. This is how it is done. This movie is about how hatred begets hatred. Solving problems with destruction only creates more destruction. Perhaps the most touching section of the movie includes Mr. Willis going to the home of a rainmaker suspect as a child and then murdering him to make sure the mob boss never takes power. Immediately, he realizes, due to the fact that he doesn’t whip back to the future to live his hunky dory life with his hot asian wife, that the kid he just killed was entirely innocent. You understand why he did it and yet you condemn him. And he condemns himself. PATHOS, BITCHES.

Johnson has created an action movie with a firing brain and a beating heart. Everything about this thing is wrapped tidily in a sweet, violent, hilarious and challenging package. It isn’t original, nor is it necessarily plagiaristic. It steals elements, like a food critic at a buffet, taking samples of everything, eating what they please and tossing the rest. It’s noir, it’s self-reflexive, it’s a western, it’s a comedy, it’s 12 Monkeys, it’s Brick, it’s Total Recall, it’s Die Hard…and yet, in the end, it’s Looper. It is itself and it is wonderful. As someone who wishes to bring real stories, deep characters and actual theme to tired genres, this is my new cinematic hero. We thought Inception would be our champion, but it got it’s dick stuck in the Chinese Butt-Trap (TM) of defining too many rules that it couldn’t uphold. Looper is the perfect balance. And yet…because it is so devoid of massive flaws, it will most likely be forgotten before long, just to chill on the action shelf next to turds like Time Cop and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.

But I will remember you, Looper. I shall carry the torch. Your work will never be forgotten.

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Comments
  1. “We have a clear goddamn theme with clear goddamn characters with clear goddamn arcs.”

    Eloquently written. And it’s something that seems to be lost in the modern storytelling world. The past couple of books I’ve read and movies I’ve seen seem to have been written/made by folks who’ve forgotten that the whole thing needs to be tied together by ONE CENTRAL THEME. Creating a bunch of small, mildly interesting/amusing subplots to propel the characters forward in time and provide convenient circumstances for emotional growth is not enough if they don’t revolve around one singular theme.

    I have a fucking science degree. Not English Lit. Not an MFA. Why the fuck do I know this and they don’t? Oh yeah, because I’m way smart. 😉

    I really enjoyed “Looper” for the reasons you so adeptly described above. (Btw, that bit about your mom (do you call her ‘Mum’?) had me ROLLING.) It may have looked like a gimmicky action flick but, refreshingly, it has a real fucking theme with real fucking characters with real fucking arcs. (See what I did there? (Sorry for replacing goddamn with fuck – I try to use fuck as often as I can.)) And it has JGL, whom I love.

    ~Nikki

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