Sometimes I wish I was the Jim Carrey character in the wonderful film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Then, as a reviewer, I could come to each film unencumbered with memories and images of the thousands of movies I’ve watched over a lifetime and could enjoy what is on screen as if it’s all new and fresh for me to savor. Alas, that is not to be.
Given that handicap, there is much to enjoy in this often loopy, slightly off-kilter (deliberately, no doubt) quasi sci-fi, adventure action film that takes us on a wild ride with some spills and chills even if at the end, we don’t feel completely like we’ve gotten our money’s worth for the effort.
- Looper is one of the movies playing this week at Regency Agoura Stadium 8 Cinemas.
Looper has a promising, inventive premise that hooks us in deliriously in the first 20 minutes; namely, a not too distant future—2074 to be exact—where time travel is a reality but is used only secretly for criminal purposes. People are sent back to the present, only to be bumped off in a cane field in the middle of Kansas, only to be summarily executed, blown away literally by “loopers” who are paid assassins. Their rewards are gold ingots that are taped to the victims’ bodies. Are you with me so far? This is the easy part.
Always stylish and beautifully photographed, the film demands some huge chunks of suspension of disbelief, even for us film-goers, super jaded as we are by every conceivable far-fetched ploy in the cannon that includes Back to the Future, Star Wars, Sixth Sense, The Terminator, Casablanca (yes!) and with the blunderbuss as the weapon of choice, strong shades of No Country for Old Men.
Unlike the distinctly psychopathic killer played by Javier Bardem in the Coen Brothers film, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s contract killer, Joe, comes off as a sane, well-groomed professional who carries out his quotidian killings as if he were herding sheep in a meadow. The actor once again proves his ever-increasing virtuosity in a slew of recent films showing enormous range and total commitment to the task at hand.
To reveal more plot details would risk being a spoiler, since much of the screenplay by Rian Johnson, who also directed, depends on our delight in discovering layers of complexity permutations and variations on otherwise well trod turf of countless other films in similar suspense dramas.
Suffice it to say that Gordon-Levitt’s younger Joe encounters his “older” self in the imposing Joe of Bruce Willis who drops down onto the designated tarp in the field to be summarily disposed of. Willis, fresh off his triumphant role in the enchanting Moonrise Kingdom, is back to his macho, smirking ways and the role suits him to a fare-thee-well. Balding, slightly jowly and paunchy, the veteran actor can still intimidate with the best of them. To imagine Gordon-Levitt’s “Joe” morphing into him some 30 years hence is both chilling and fun to contemplate.
I’ll leave it to you to figure out the machinations that involve “closing the loop” of the victims sent back from the future, but for the most part, Loopers is a trip worth taking. Emily Blunt, almost unrecognizable from her earlier roles is effective as the one love interest in this otherwise strictly male world of guns and violence. Nice work all around.
Jeff Klayman is an award-winning playwright whose works have been produced in New York, Los Angeles and London. He also wrote the screenplay for the independent film Adios, Ernesto, directed by Mervyn Willis.