Premise: (from IMDB) In 2072, when the mob wants to get rid of someone, the target is sent 30 years into the past, where a hired gun awaits. Someone like Joe, who one day learns the mob wants to 'close the loop' by transporting back Joe's future self.
About: Rian Johnson, who broke onto the scene as a writer/director of the Joseph Gordon-Levitt starring "Brick," rejoins the actor for his latest film and first foray into the sci-fi genre, "Looper."
Writer: Rian Johnson
Did I just watch?
I have seen some weird-ass movies in my time, but Looper's made it to to the top of my current WTF list. What's so baffling about this uneven, strange, mutation of a movie is that it's shot in such a way as to almost force you to take it seriously. The actors are big. The cinemtography is top-notch. The production value is impressive. The problem is that this is one of the wonkiest screenplays I've ever seen made into a film. We are talking bizarre choice after bizarre choice. But before I even get to the screenplay, I cannot NOT talk about Joseph Gordon-Levitt's face!
So when I decided I wasn't going to review this script, I skipped all marketing for the movie. I don't get to see that many movies where I haven't already read the script and I wanted to go in fresh. So while many of you had probably been properly prepped for the Mr. Potato Head technology used in this film, I knew nothing about it, and therefore thought the concessions guys had dropped an ounce of acid into my coke.
The first time I saw Gordon-Levitt onscreen I thought, "Man, he's getting old." Then, as time went by, I thought, "Or wait, he's had work done." And that occupied my thoughts for like 15 minutes - as I kept asking the question, "Why would Joseph Gorden-Levitt have work done on his face?? Is he really that vain?" I was so confused. Until I realized that his lips looked eerily similar to the lips of someone famous. I eventually realized that someone was Bruce Willis, and the purpose of the face-morph-a-thon became clear to me. But then I couldn't stop thinking about that skit on Conan O'Brien where he'd show you what the baby would look like if two celebrities had a kid. That's honestly what Joseph Gordon-Levitt/Bruce Willis kept reminding me of!
I'm also dying to know if Gordon-Levitt approved of this ahead of time. Actors are all about their eyes. It looks like Willis' eyes were glued onto Gordon-Levitt's face. When you couple that with his glued-on mouth, did Gordon-Levitt do any actual acting?? While I continued to be baffled by that, I eventually realized it was a harbinger of the circus that was to come. But I'll get to that later.
So what's Looper about? It's basically about this guy who lives in 2042(?) named Joe. Joe is a looper. In the future, time travel is illegal but the mob doesn't care and uses it to dispose of bodies. You see, in the future, it's impossible to dispose of bodies (even though we - spoiler - see Old Joe's girlfriend killed in the future. So apparently it can't be that difficult), so they send these people back to the past, to 2042, where "Loopers" are waiting for them and shoot them as soon as they arrive. That's Joe's job, to kill these people and dispose of their bodies. Why they can't just kill the bodies in the future and THEN send them back so as to keep the job simpler is never explained, but my guess is that it would've ruined the plot point needed to create the rest of the story. Not, of course, because it actually makes sense.
Now here's the thing. This future crime organization doesn't like the idea of Loopers running around willy-nilly because they very well might tell someone that they (the mob) like to play hide and seek with the past. So 30 years after your Looper contract ends, they capture you and send you back and have your young self kill YOU (your old self). You don't know you're killing yourself yet because they send the future people back with bags over their heads. You only realize it afterwards. This is called "closing your loop" and it means you're retired.
So let me get this straight. This organization isn't concerned that you might say something in the 30 years leading up to that moment, only once you hit the 30 year mark? Yeah, that makes perfect sense. 30 years later is almost always the moment when people start giving away secrets.
But whatever, I'll go with it. The movie's still cool, even if Joseph Gordon-Levitt's face is freaking me the hell out. I'm no longer scared of clowns. I'm scared of Gordon-Levitt-Willis's. If they want to make a horror film, cast this man! Cast him now!
What happened to your FACE???
Anyway, we're told about someone from the future called the "Rainmaker." Apparently he's closing all the loops because...I don't know. Because that's what the script wants. Not because it makes sense. So Old Joe is sent back to be killed by Joe, but Joe botches the execution and Old Joe escapes. There's this really tough future mob boss who looks like Jeff Daniels who can't have future people on the run in the past! So he orders his men to kill both Joe and Old Joe.
Up until this point, we still had a movie. I didn't like all the wonkiness (why do they need these special guns again other than that they look cool??) but it's a solid setup. It's a cool idea for a thriller on the run. The old guy can't just run away. He has to make sure his young self survives too. Because if young self dies, old self dies. That's cool!
EXCEPT somebody decided to introduce TELE-FUCKING-KENISIS into the story. WTF???
Apparently, in the future, there's telekinesis! Why? I'll tell you why. Because Johnson needed some reason for the cool shots later on where everything floats. But I'm getting ahead of myself - time jumping if you will, so I need to stay in the present. 10% of the people on the planet can float quarters over their hands. I swear - TEN FULL MINUTES of this movie is dedicated to explaining that people can float quarters over their hands. It's such a strange weird nonsensical variable that's thrown into the film that there's no other way to respond to it than: WTF???
Anyway, that was the weird choice that destroyed the movie. But here's the story decision that destoryed the movie. Joe holes up in a farm and decides to sit there and wait for his older self to show up so he can kill him and get his life back. The owner of the farm is some woman and her Omen child, who I'll get to in a sec.
What baffled me is that Johnson completely KILLED the momentum of his story! As I always tell you guys, NEVER put your character in a location for a long time WAITING FOR SOMETHING. Waiting is NEVER INTERESTING. Your character becomes inactive. He's no longer doing anything. The story slows to a halt. And everything becomes BORING!
Just ask yourself, how exciting is it to watch someone wait for anything. It isn't! EVER! Now if you have some element of conflict constantly coming at your characters (something attacking them for instance) then you can make it work (even though I still hate the waiting element), but just having someone wait? And wait? And wait?? It's script suicide! You will bore an audience to pieces.
But what really rolled me, what really had me throwing my hands up in the air, was when The Omen child showed up. All of a sudden, this little kid (who we're assuming is the "Rainmaker" - which might be cool if I understood who the heck the Rainmaker was and why he was so important) turns out to be this little Omen boy, who gets really angry and when he gets angry....his TELEKINESIS GOES OUT OF CONTROL! And everything in the air floats. And he can rip your body to shreds on a molecular level.
When did this become a Steven King novel?! I thought this was about a guy who has to kill his future self! What the hell is going on right now???
Every scene with the kid was comically bad. And nothing about him made sense. He would trip down the stairs and that would trigger one of his super-telekinesis freak outs, which would result in people exploding! By falling down the stairs!! It was just so bizarre. And what did any of this telekensis stuff have to do with the Looper stuff! The Rainmaker of the future was "closing loops." Why? And why did he have to have special telekinesis powers to ask Loopers to close loops? Didn't he just need the power of asking?
I could go on about how bad this was but what would be the point? What this script needed was someone to tell Johnson to ditch the whole Rainmaker, Omen, Farm plot and focus on the intricate world of looping and the unique setup of two people on the run, one of whom can't survive unless the other survives. Someone please close my loop. Then blow me up on a molecular level.
[x] what the hell did I just watch?
[ ] wasted 2 hours
[ ] worth the price of admission
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: Never hole your characters up in a location and have them wait for something for too long UNLESS they're constantly battling lots of outside conflict. Main characters waiting for shit to happen is the worst thing you can do to a story.