Looper: Time Traveling Hitmen and Psychic Powers (Together at Last!)   1 comment

“Aaron, I’m standing at the time portal, which scientists say follows Terminator rules.  That is, it’s one way only and you can’t go back.  This is in contrast to, say, Back to the Future rules where back and forth is possible, and, of course, Timerider rules, which are just plain silly.” – Harrison the TV Reporter

Top Line: Looper is a fantastic movie.  It’s got an inventive and unique science fiction universe that it uses well, and while it suffers from a few problems here and there, overall it is excellent, consistently entertaining, and generally a great deal of fun.

Who (probably) should see this movie: Science fiction and gangster movie fans, anyone who liked Brick or The Brothers Bloom, and noir detective fans generally. 

Who (probably) should not see this movie: Those who aren’t big fans of any of the above genres and/or movies.  What you see is what you get with Looper

Box Score:

Runtime: 1h:58m – Feels about right.

Actual Start Time: Showtime +17 Minutes

MPAA: Rated R for strong violence, language, some sexuality/nudity and drug content

The language was actually pretty tame, but it did have the rest of those things (bless its heart), plus dead kids, so yeah, for once the R is pretty well deserved.  But that shouldn’t stop eager beaver 15 year olds from seeing it.  I would’ve loved this movie when I was 15. 

Should Be Rated: PG-16

Three Stars:

  1. Bruce Willis – Old Joe the Hitman:
    John McClane didn’t need to be there with the rest of the retirement home gang in those Expendables movies.  He is still perfectly capable of pulling off an action role without it being ironic.
  2. Joseph Gordon-Levitt – Young Joe the Hitman:
    Premium Rush is great as the younger, more inexperienced version of Willis’ elder badass.  He’s steely and cool when he needs to be but still young and impulsive when necessary.
  3. Emily Blunt – Shotgun Wielding Farmer Mommy:
    Plays the rural, futuristic femme fatale for this particular detective story with verve and heart.
Need to See In Theater (Baseline: 2):

  • +1 They actually had midnight showings of this.
  • +1 The kind of movie that’s much more fun with an audience.

Final Score: 4

Need to See Eventually (Baseline: 5):

  • +2 Flat out good movie.
  • -1 Good or not, it’s still a niche film, so there’s no burning need to see it.

Final Score: 5

Bechdel (Baseline: 5):

  • +1 Emily Blunt is fantastic and gets a role with just as much complicated backdrop as the Old and Young Joe the Hitmans. 
  • +1 In a movie with a small cast, she gets major screen time.
  • -3 That said, never comes close to passing.
  • -1 Piper Perabo and Tracie Thoms can act, I’ve seen them do it, shame they don’t get to do anything but sashay around and serve coffee, respectively.

Final Score: 3

IMDb Sez:


  • Rian Johnson:
    Wrote and directed Brick (2005) and The Brothers Bloom (2008), both of which are lots of fun.


Rotten Tomatoes Sez:

All Critics: 92% Top Critics: 95% Audience: 91%


  • As you can see from the Rotten Tomatoes numbers, there is wide agreement that this is an excellent film, I will not offer much dissent.
  • The movie has two futures, one thirty years from now and the other thirty years from that.  The nearer future is where we spend almost the entire film, and it is a very well done future.  It’s believably depressing, suffers from plenty of problems you could see growing out of the ones we have now, and has some very nice touches of desperation (small and large). 
  • It is, however, a mainly white future where women don’t seem to do much other than wait tables, mind the kids, and entertain. 
  • That said, it’s a very rich world.  You could easily set a series of comic books there. 
  • Like any good film noir buff, Johnson is acutely aware of all the little plot elements in his story and how they foreshadow one another and work together.  You could pick at things here or there, but for the most part the plot works well, which is especially impressive in a science fiction world where lesser movies tend to change their rules halfway through to suit the plot.
  • People from the past can send messages to their future selves by carving messages into their own flesh.  (+20 cool points, Achievement: Flesh Message Unlocked)
  • The minor character henchmen are very good, but the anonymous cannon fodder henchmen suffer from a very pronounced case of Incompetent Henchman Syndrome.  At one point, an armed guy runs into a room where gunfire has just been exchanged and doesn’t draw his gun until Gordon-Levitt is already kicking his ass. 
  • Special commendation goes to Pierce Gagnon, the little boy who plays Blunt’s son.  Kid can act, and has some great lines. 
  • Yes, Deadwood fans, that’s the guy who played Jack McCall in Season 1 and Francis Wolcott in Season 2.  (Johnson also used Eddie Sawyer as the narrator in The Brothers Bloom.)
  • Demographic marketing exists for a reason.  I was one of about a dozen guys, mostly pathetic single men, at the early Friday show.  The showing of Pitch Perfect that let out at the same time appeared to have contained about the same number of people, but was entirely female. 

Bottom Line: Looper is an exceedingly well done genre picture.  In this case, it’s a standard film noir plot with wiseguys, hired goons, hot dames, and lots of illegal activity, but with the added twist of time travel and people with telekinetic powers.  That’s a potent mixture that could’ve easily been mishandled, but Rian Johnson is, for the third time in a row, completely on top of his game.

The movie has a very involved story to tell and a very unusual world in which to tell it, but keeps things moving at an entertaining clip.  There’s plenty of action, suspense, cool reveals, slick dialogue and all the other trimmings that make movies like this fun to watch.  There are enough elements moving along to keep the final twist pretty well obscured, and it never gets bogged down with backstory or distractions.  As with most noir movies, there are a couple of “wait, what?” moments where something doesn’t quite fly, but for the most part they’re minor. 

Willis and Gordon-Levitt are both fantastic, and do a very good job of giving Joe the Hitman recognizable traits even when one of him is thirty years older than the other.  The rest of the supporting cast, from Blunt’s psychic mommy to Jeff Daniels’ cynical, seen it all mob boss is just as at home.  Even though many of them hardly get more than a couple of scenes, the script gives even the minor characters at least some depth. 

All in all, Looper is the kind of movie that critics tend to wish Hollywood made more of: original, inventive, well written and acted, and entertaining in ways that don’t leave you feeling like you’ve seen it all before.  The cast is solid, the effects are well done, and the script is cool.  That’s a hell of a lot more than can be said for most movies, and Looper deserves every bit of praise it’s getting.

Movies Deemed Commercially and Demographically Similar Enough to Merit Trailers Before Looper:

Cloud AtlasIt would be so cool if this movie doesn’t suck, too bad it looks like a higher budget remake of The Fountain

Mama – Speaking of visually cool movies that look like they kinda suck, Guillermo del Toro takes a crack at the “creepy little girl” horror genre. 

Sinister – The house is still haunted and the family is still unsuspecting.

Lincoln – Tony Kushner’s involvement is intriguing, but this looks just godawful.  This is a discussion for another time, but if you were evaluating Spielberg exclusively on his post-2000 movies, he’d be a middlebrow hack.

Red Dawn – Much like the original, this could be fun provided you have enough booze handy.  Also like the original, it looks so unbelievably stupid that actually drinking “enough booze” might lead to permanent incapacitation. 

Zero Dark Thirty – The ethically wretched but probably entertaining movie that will someday have a book written about how wildly inaccurate it is.

WARNING: The comments section is a spoiler friendly zone.  By reading this with your inner monologue, you have waved any right to bitch about spoilers in perpetuity throughout the universe.

Posted September 28, 2012 by Charlie Sweatpants in Box Score Cinema, South Park

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One response to “Looper: Time Traveling Hitmen and Psychic Powers (Together at Last!)

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  1. Pingback: Imported Goods: British Perception of Americans and American Culture « The Ann Arbor Review of Books

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