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Looper (2012)

I had high expectations of Looper - Joseph Gordon Levitt, Bruce Willis, action, time travel, what could go wrong? A lot, is the answer. (This review contains SPOILERS)

The basics: Joe (Joseph Gordon Levitt) is a 'looper', he kills people who are sent back from the future. One day his future self (Bruce Willis) turns up and gets the better of him, and Joe has to track him down and kill him, while running from his mob bosses who want to hobble him for letting his future self escape. He winds up on a deserted farm with a woman (Emily Blunt) and her son, waiting for Old Joe to turn up.

Now, no time travel film is without a few paradoxes, but this was full of more holes than Bruce Willis's victims after he's gunned them down. Which wouldn't have been such a problem if it had been a fun on-the-run movie. But then the mechanics of the time travel which are fudged over throughout the movie are then supposed to be integral to the ending. Which doesn't actually make sense. It's like a dodgy episode of Torchwood. And it's not fun, not at all.

On an action level - there really isn't all that much. There's one sequence where Bruce Willis (who is apparently and inexplicably indestructible) takes out a lot of mobster types, with one impressive shot of a bar being destroyed, if that's what you're into. There's a lot of people who shoot people for a living who are inexplicably terrible shots. Mostly it's just very loud bangs. It's always a bad sign when a film tries to sell you tension and action through the use of Loud Noises, it means it's not really there in the script.

On a character level there's nobody to root for. Young Joe is basically an *******. He's a killer, he lets his friend get tortured and killed for money, he's on drugs and he drives a shiny car around a poor district generally being a jerk. There's a point where Old Joe points this all out to him and you think maybe what we've got happening here is some kind of redemption arc. I think that writer/director Rian Johnson thinks that's what we've got here, but it doesn't really work; Joe's too unlikable to start with, and not enough happens to actually redeem him.

And then there's Old Joe. Who's the same. He has a spiel about his wife having saved him from his life of crime (as if he ever even deserved a second chance). But then he's all out to either avenge or prevent (even the film doesn't seem to be sure which) her death. And to do this, he comes over all King Herod and starts murdering children just in case they grow up to be a mysterious crime boss in the future. At which point he loses any shred of sympathy, and the film loses my interest.

Sara lives on a farm and is interesting for about five minutes until it becomes apparent that contrary to first impressions, she really is going to be the typical Helpless Woman with Child. She has a gun but won't use it. (There are only three women in this film, by the way, the Whore, the Mother and the Dead Wife. It's practically text book misogyny.)

And at about this point the film decides it's actually a Stephen King adaptation, and the main focus of the film becomes the telekinetic boy, who is pale and stares a lot, in the way all creepy film children are required to do. There's a bit of uncomfortable and entirely inappropriate bonding between Joe and Cid the kid when Joe talks about his own unhappy childhood and how having a gun made him a Real Man. Sara and Joe sleep together (probably, the film is remarkably coy about sex even when it's happy to show little kids covered in blood, but hey, that's the MPAA for you). It's entirely improbable and accompanied by an equally improbable bit of music (Again, the score trying to tell us 'romance' when it just isn't there in the film).

There are some good things. Mostly interesting ideas and concepts that are never really followed up. It is at least grown-up and not predictable. The glimpses we get at the start of the dystopian future world the loopers live in are interesting, but then most of the film takes place at an abandoned farmhouse and surrounding fields that could be set in any time within a seventy-year radius. It's all well put together in a technical sense, no wobbly camera work, although there is some too-dark lighting at points, some decent shots and sets. There's also such potential in the idea of past and future self meeting - but then they're apart for most the movie. There's potential, too, in the way Old Joe starts to forget his life as what happens in the now changes the future, but again, it's wasted.

There's no charm, no humour. It's relentlessly nasty and brutish (but unfortunately not particularly short).

Wait for the DVD. Or better still, rewatch The Terminator instead.