Bryce E.E. Graham, Attorney at Film
WARNING: GRAPHIC LANGUAGE AND MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF SPOILERS PROCEED. READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.
I don’t understand how so many people got roped into thinking Looper was any good. Yeah, it’s got some awesome effects and scenes, but as a narrative it's terminally flawed. In other words it’s a piece of shit. If I were to rename this film, I would call it Pooper, for a plethora of reasons.
All right, before we get into the nitty-gritty let me lay out the ground rules as heard in Joseph Gordon Levitt’s voiceover as the first dialogue in the movie:
“Time travel has not yet been invented, but thirty years from now, it will have been. It will be instantly outlawed used only in secret by the largest criminal organizations. It’s nearly impossible to dispose of a body in the future, I’m told. Tagging techniques, whatnot. So when these criminal organizations in the future need someone gone, they use specialized assassins in our present called Loopers. And so my employers in the future nab the target, they zap him back to me, their Looper, he appears, hands tied and head sacked, and I do the necessaries. Collect my silver. So the target is vanished from the future and I’ve just disposed of a body that technically does not exist. Clean.”
First of all, starting off the film with a Voice Over is already a red flag. If this much exposition is needed this early on in the film, we’re going to have problems. A film shouldn’t be so confusing that the premise must be told to people. There are a few exceptions to when voice over is a good thing (Goodfellas sticks out in memory), but I digress.
ANYWAY, let me break this down for all of you. Murder and time travel are both HIGHLY ILLEGAL activities, yet, for some reason, it’s easier to track down murders than it is time travelers. Also, no one in the future finds it suspicious that people just disappear, for no reason at all. Just poof, GONE, end of investigation. Wouldn’t they be suspicious about all these disappearing people, I mean with the “tagging techniques” and “whatnot?”
Also, the amount of silver per assassination is not a small amount. It’s a very large amount. This is shown during the first assassination, where it seems like more than twenty pounds of silver is strapped to the target’s back. These assassinations seem to take place multiple times daily, and it makes me wonder how this practice could be economically viable for a large criminal syndicate.
The costs of ILLEGAL TIME TRAVEL must be very high, not to mention the expenses of transporting the target to the time machine. It’s not like they just appear in the past willy-nilly. The syndicate has to pay people to kidnap the targets, to build the time machines, and still make a profit. It seems like it would be easier to just kill the person, send the dead body back in time over the ocean, and be done with it. No messy time loops to close, just a good old fashioned murder. And remember, this is the FIRST dialogue of the movie. We’re barely a minute in and already the premise, for me, has fallen apart.
After showing how the assassination works and disposing of the body in a random furnace, JGL (Joseph Gordon Levitt) goes to have coffee at his usual joint. Apparently nothing takes the edge off assassinating a future man like a good old cup o’ joe.
This is where I began to notice another thing that pissed me off: the time period is supposed to be 2044, yet everyone seems to be driving cars from the late 2000s to the early 1990s. THOSE CARS ARE MORE THAN THIRTY YEARS OLD! That would be like a majority of the population today driving around in cars from before 1984. They tried to make the cars look a bit more futuristic by gluing solar panels on the front of them, but that just seems lazy. The most technologically advanced piece of equipment in this world seems to be a hover bike. What the fuck? If I’m watching a sci-fi movie I want to see cool technological advancements, not the lame half-assed “oh, it’s basically today, but also there’s time travel!” Why not have cooler weapons? At least have silenced guns, for Christ’s sake! Don’t you want to be stealthy about this? Isn’t murder still technically a crime?
That’s another part of this movie I don’t really understand, Kansas, where this film apparently takes place, seems semi-post-apocalyptic, but not fully. It’s never explained, but it seems like most of the citizenry live like refugees. What happened? Why is there no law in this future? I really shouldn’t have to ask these questions, but I have to, and there really isn’t an answer. That’s one of the major problems of this movie: it raises more questions than it answers. It’s like the Lost of movies.
So, JGL is riding with his friend Seth down the refugee infested roads of a city in Kansas, and is all like “oh, by the way, there’s been a genetic mutation and some people are telekinetic, or TKs. Seth is one of them, but it’s no big deal. All he can do is float quarters. This is important, but only later on. It’s what we call Chekhov’s gun. You don’t introduce TKs in the first act, unless you’re going to use them by the last act.
Anyway, Seth is floating quarters, and it seems really pointless. The whole idea of TKs is just glossed over, like most things in this movie. How does it work? Oh, it’s a genetic mutation, of course. That answers ALL OF MY QUESTIONS!
The two of them go to a pawn shop to sell some of their silver, because every night is Friday night in Looperville! Before heading out to a crazy party where everyone’s getting high on eye drops and having a good time, they stop by the Looper HQ where someone has just closed his loop. What is closing a loop, you ask? Well, I think JGL explains it best:
“When we sign up for this job […] we also agree to a specific proviso, time travel in the future is so illegal that when our employers want to close our contracts, they’ll also want to erase any trace of their relationship with us ever existing. So, if we’re still alive 30 years from now, they’ll find our older self, zap him back to us and we’ll kill him like any other job. This is called closing your loop. And you get a golden payday, you get a handshake, and you get released from your contract. Enjoy your next 30 years.”
Again, why? Just, so much why? Why 30 years? Why not kill them sooner, when the “tagging techniques” and “whatnot” aren’t an issue? Why use time travel so much if it’s highly illegal? Why kill the Loopers in the first place if they’re bound to die of natural causes eventually? My brain hurts with all the questions I have, and none of them are answered.
After this riveting explanation about how Loopers work, we finally go to the club, where everyone proceeds to get fucked up and party. Then it’s montage time. JGL kills his target, goes to get coffee, and then proceeds to party. Day after day it’s the same. It is noted, however, that a lot people are closing their loops lately. Every time this is mentioned JGL is all like “whatever, just fuck off so I can continue my downward spiral into eye drop addiction.”
Life seems about as groovy as it can for a drug addled JGL for a long while, until one day his TK friend Seth has to go and fuck everything up. Apparently, Seth was supposed to close his loop, but when the target popped into the present he was humming some crazy song. Seth recognized the song and was like, oh shit, it’s me from the future! So, he proceeded to be the idiot he was always meant to be and took off the bag to get a look at his future self. Things continued to go downhill and his future self ended up getting away. So Seth decides to go hang with his best friend JGL until the heat dies down.
I won’t go into length about Seth’s bullshit, but there is one important plot point he has to introduce. Basically Seth says there’s this new boss in the future called The Rainmaker who’s taken over the crime syndicate. Then JGL sells out Seth to Looper HQ, and they take Seth into a surgical room where they do things to his body.
This is where we find out that if something happens to a present body it affects the future body as well. It starts out simple. A scarred message appears on Future Seth’s arm that says something to the effects of “Hey, dude, better come to this place in 45 minutes.” Then his fingers magically start to disappear, then his nose. So future Seth decides, “Hey, I better head over to this place before they cut off something I really care about.” As he gets to the address assigned to him he finds his foot has been chopped off, then his legs and tongue, but he does arrive at the address on time, then he’s killed.
So, why didn’t they just kill present Seth? That would get rid of future Seth pretty easily, right? Well, apparently it’s not that easy. In an earlier scene JGL asks Abe if they’re going to kill Seth, to which Abe responds:
“Not if we can help it. Be too cataclysmic a change for the future. What we’ll do is dangerous in that regard, though not as dangerous as killing him […] this time travel shit fries your brain like an egg.”
This is what I dislike the most about this movie, how dismissive and ambiguous it is towards the big questions of time travel and anything sci-fi. The amount of damage they do to Seth is Earthshattering. The future he had is completely gone, there’s no hope that he’ll have any sort of normal life. The future has been changed a ridiculous amount, but don’t think about it. Seriously. I’ve tried wrapping my mind around the time travel rules in the movie for hours and hours and all I’ve been left with is a migraine.
This is the point in the movie where we finally get to some action. The body count is relatively high at this point, but there’s really been no excitement. It’s been like shooting fish in a barrel so far, but Bruce Willis ain’t no fish, and you’re sure as shit not putting him in a barrel.
So, it’s the day after the Seth incident. JGL is standing out in a corn field, gun in hand, waiting for his target to arrive, but he’s late. JGL checks his watch again and again, when suddenly Bruce Willis appears, no bag over his head, his hands untied. JGL is so shocked he forgets to shoot, giving Bruce Willis enough time to pull off some badassery and neutralize JGL by throwing a goddamn block of gold at his head, knocking him out. The gold block is important because, as was revealed early on in the film, when you get a gold payday you’ve closed your loop. This means Bruce Willis is JGL from the future!
To reiterate this point, we get to see a montage of Bruce Willis’ life. In this montage we see a timeline in which JGL succeeds in killing Bruce Willis. We then quickly go through 30 years of his life, which is basically him being a drug addicted gangster for 23 years while living in Shanghai, until he meets his wife. His wife cleans him up, makes him better, and they’re happy.
This montage makes me wonder when murder becomes so difficult in the future. For 23 years after closing his loop, Bruce Willis seems to have no problem whatsoever getting away with murder on a fairly regular basis. I must point that there is not a single cop in this entire movie, either, so who is enforcing these strict no murder and no time travel laws?
Anyway, one day, after watching the news in Chinese and hearing something about the Rainmaker, Bruce Willis is kidnapped by FUTURE AMISH GANGSTERS, and taken to close his loop. I say future Amish gangsters because these fellas wear the most ridiculous hats and clothing and look exactly like Amish Gangsters. I would tell you to check it out, but honestly, it’s not worth watching the film for that.
So, these Amish looking guys take Bruce Willis to the Time Machine after burning his house to the ground. They try to bind him, but things go wrong pretty fast. Bruce Willis easily escapes his bindings and punches all the Amish gangsters until they are dead, unconscious, or so distracted with their own groaning that they no longer pose a threat to Bruce Willis. At this point he could just leave, go back home and not worry about anything, but instead he goes into the time machine, knowing exactly what’s waiting for him on the other end. And then we’re back to the present. Bruce Willis knocks JGL out again, and that’s the end of the montage.
After going through his entire past in his head for us all, Bruce Willis is on the future computer at the local library (apparently there are still libraries in this semi-post-apocalyptic land, but police officers? Nah, NOT NECESSARY AT ALL!), this computer looks and works like a computer these days, but the screen pulls out of the desk, is entirely made of glass, and the keyboard is pointlessly stylized, you know, exactly how future tech is supposed to look! What’s he looking up on the computer? Just some random numbers that seem to have nothing to do with anything. He marks some stuff on a map, but then the worst possibility happens! A scar appears on his right forearm. He knows he has to go someplace, and fast.
Cut to the Café that JGL likes to go to after killing defenseless future people. Bruce Willis enters the café and sits across from JGL, who is alone. This is the first time JGL and Bruce Willis actually get to talk to each other, and if there’s anything to gather from this conversation, it’s when Bruce Willis says, “I don’t want to talk about time travel shit. Because if we start talking about it then we’re going to be here all day talking about it and making diagrams with straws. It doesn’t matter.”
What the fuck is that nonsense? We finally have a chance to explore time travel in conversation, without voice over, and it’s a dismissive “It doesn’t matter”? That’s such bull shit! It’s lazy writing. I can no longer just go with the flow, I need answers! Bruce Willis eventually relents, hoping that maybe after giving me an answer I’ll stop yelling at the TV.
“My memory’s cloudy. It’s a cloud. ‘Cause my memories aren’t really memories, they’re just one possible eventuality now. And they grow clearer or cloudier as they become more or less likely. But then they get to the present moment and they’re instantly clear again. I can remember what you do after you do it.”
This scene should make me happy. Now I have an answer, but it doesn’t really answer anything. “I can remember what you do after you do it,” that could be said about anyone. I can remember what a friend of mine said to me after he says it. That has nothing to do with time travel at all. And saying he doesn’t have memories, just eventualities that become more or less likely as time moves along is stupid. Just by doing everything he’s already done he’s changed all his eventualities. JGL can’t go back to his life, the life Bruce Willis knows and there’s no way he’d be able to meet his future wife. It’s all impossible!
Bruce Willis then reveals to JGL the reason he came back to the past. He wants to save his wife. She apparently died because of the Rainmaker, and Bruce Willis thinks taking out the Rainmaker when he’s still a kid will change the future. What this scene reveals to me, however, is that the entire premise of Loopers is pointless. The Amish gangsters just straight up shoot Bruce Willis’ wife, killing her, when MURDERING PEOPLE IS HARDER TO PULL OFF THAN TIME TRAVEL!
If they hadn’t killed Bruce Willis’ wife I might have been like, “OK, it’s ridiculous that the only way to murder people is to send them back in time, but at least the film followed through on its rules,” but nope. The film just throws out the rules like they mean nothing at all. Billions if not Trillions of dollars have been sent on Looper assassinations, but they really serve no purpose because yes, you can get away with murder in the future and this scene proves it. Fucking ay!
Anyway, there’s a shootout at the café, when Abe’s men come to take in JGL and Bruce Willis, but they’re both able to get away pretty easily. JGL grabs at Bruce Willis at one point, and rips off a piece of a map that’s in Bruce Willis’ pocket. JGL then flies his hover bike into a cornfield, before ditching it and running away.
How were Abe’s men able to track down JGL and Bruce Willis, you, again, may ask? Well, it turns out they tracked the GPS on JGL’s hover bike, which is easily traceable. This raises one huge question that makes the movie ENTIRELY POINTLESS: Why doesn’t the crime syndicate put GPSes on the Loopers? It just seems logical. If the syndicate did that, Loopers could be tracked down whenever they were needed. This technology already exists in real life, and implementing it into the movie would greatly cut down on the 2 hour run time. But, as I’ve discussed at great length, nothing in this film is logical. There is no God. Everything you know is a lie. Etc. Etc.
After running through the corn fields for a while, JGL happens upon this farmhouse. After some plot points that need not be discussed, the woman of the house, Sarah, begrudgingly takes JGL in and helps him kick his eye dropping habit.
This simple act causes Bruce Willis’ memory to change, but he wills himself to remember what he wants to. Bruce Willis’ wife was the one that cleaned him up, got him off of the drops, not some random woman in Kansas. Of course, this eventuality is impossible, and the time travel in this movie is completely idiotic, but this has already been covered at length.
After JGL has recovered enough from his withdrawals, he pulls the map piece he stole from Bruce Willis. When he does this, Sarah shoots JGL with a bunch of rock salt after he refuses to reveal how he got the map. She then asks him why he came to her farm in the first place. He answers with his classic line “Time travel has not yet been invented.” And then she just cuts in, making a crazy, out of nowhere accusation: “You’re a Looper?”
OK. Wow. I don’t even know what to say. This woman, from way out in the middle of nowhere, just says “You’re a Looper?” like it’s nothing. Do the Loopers not give a single fuck? Are they just telling everyone what their deal is? I mean, I would think you’d want to keep something like looping a secret, but that could just be me.
Anyway, while JGL is dealing with Sarah’s bullshit, Bruce Willis decides to do the honorable thing, a thing that could save his future, and more importantly his future wife. He goes to a spot on his map, and kills a child who has a 33.3% chance of being the Rainmaker. I mean, odds are he’s innocent, but Bruce Willis isn’t above killing an innocent kid, which is exactly what he does.
Where is the Rainmaker? Who is the Rainmaker? These are two questions that you may be asking, and I will tell you. The Rainmaker is Sarah’s kid, a kid named Cid. Cid the kid. Cid is a TK, and a powerful one at that. You remember that Chekhov’s gun I was talking about? Turns out that gun is a kid. A kid who is responsible for the single coolest scene in the film!
Look, this review is mostly me bitching and moaning about this film’s lack of logic and how often the film breaks its own rules, but even I, one of the most cynical movie watchers, can respect a scene of this magnitude.
After a night of passionate love making between JGL and Sarah (which happens for absolutely no reason whatsoever aside from the fact that Sarah is horny and wants JGL, even though the only thing she knows about him is that he’s a vagrant junkie stranger who kills people for a living), JGL wakes up to find Sarah held at gunpoint by Jesse, one of Abe’s men. Jesse isn’t there to kill anyone, he just wants JGL to surrender and go back to Abe. Luckily, Cid the Kid starts walking down the stairs while Jesse is there. Jesse is startled by this, and points his gun at the kid, causing Cid to trip and fall down the stairs.
This is where the cool times start. The kid falls and the furniture rattles, and everything that isn’t nailed down starts to rise off the ground. Sarah tackles JGL out of the house, because she knows what’s going to happen next, and it ain’t pretty. Cid floats Jesse in mid-air, and then Cid screams at the top of his lungs, causing blood to explode right out of Jesse.
If this movie would have been just about TKs and their ability to explode people, I would have loved it. I wouldn’t care if the only explanation was “Oh, there’s a genetic mutation,” I wouldn’t care about any explanation at all. Just give me a movie with the description “People exploding other people with their mind” and I will buy that movie in a heartbeat. Interestingly enough, the last half hour of Looper is similar.
You see, Bruce Willis is captured before he kills his second innocent child, and he’s brought to Abe, alive. All of Abe’s henchmen are there, because of reasons. I can’t remember those reasons, but it’s important that they’re there, because they contribute to the second coolest scene in the movie.
It’s classic Bruce Willis: he breaks free from his captor AND KILLS EVERY SINGLE MOTHER FUCKER IN THAT PLACE WITH A MACHINE GUN (well, he accidentally leaves one alive, but damn it all if he wasn’t close). Goddamn does it feel good to see some action! If it weren’t surrounded by the completely inane plot and terrible logic, I’d like this movie based on its action sequences alone. Sadly, the sequences don’t last very long, but they are brief moments of sunshine in a mostly stormy movie.
Anyway, JGL tells Sarah that she and Cid (who is still covered in Jesse’s blood) need to get away from the farm, because bad people are on their way. Don’t ask him about, but he just knows it’s not going to take long for Bruce Willis to find them. So Sarah gets packed while JGL heads down the road where, TO NO ONE’S SURPRISE, Bruce Willis stands there, waiting for him. He tells JGL to take his gold, and get out of there. This is an easy prospect, Bruce Willis is standing next to an armored truck, full of money, but JGL asks “Are you going to kill that boy?” to which Bruce Willis says “You’re goddamn right I’m going to kill that boy.” I believe this will go down in history as the best line ever uttered by Bruce Willis.
JGL tries to stop Bruce Willis, but gets kneecapped by the last remaining survivor of Abe’s gang, who somehow surprises everyone by showing up on a hovercycle. Maybe I’m dense, but that hovercycle seems to make a lot of noise. I’m certain that JGL would have noticed it, but that could just be me. Anyway, hoverbike guy gets killed by JGL pretty quickly, but JGL can’t catch up to Bruce Willis, and he sees how bad things could get. He sees a future inwhich Bruce Willis fails to kill Cid, and instead kills Sarah, and he sees that it is Bruce Willis that creates the Rainmaker. He says “The bad path, I saw it. And the path was a circle. Round and round.”
All right, here is where the logic really jumps off the rails. The only reason Bruce Willis comes back in time is to take care of the Rainmaker, and the only reason the Rainmaker exists is because Bruce Willis comes back in time. The Rainmaker, by all means and measures, cannot exist, because it relies on Bruce Willis coming back from a world in which the Rainmaker exists so he can create that world.
The classic words of Abe come back to me when I think about these things: “This time travel shit fries your brain like an egg.”
Anyway, JGL knows there’s only one way to stop this inevitable future, he kills himself, and Bruce Willis vanishes from existence. Of course, by doing this JGL creates a time paradox. There is nothing Bruce Willis could have done during the entire film, because he couldn’t have existed. All the murders he committed in the present and JGL killing himself couldn’t have happened because Bruce Willis never existed, but the only reason JGL killed himself was because Bruce Willis existed. Of course, none of this is addressed in the movie, and once again my brain hurts.
You would think a more reasonable approach to the situation would have been if JGL shot off the hand with which Bruce Willis held his gun. This would have bought everyone time, and JGL wouldn’t have to die. But, of course, that would actually be something logical, so it couldn’t happen in this movie.
This is where the movie ends, Sarah and Cid are alive with a truck full of gold, and full lives to lead. The Loopers have been wiped out, and Abe’s gang will no longer be a problem for Kansas, 2044. So, really, it’s a pretty happy ending all things considered.
So to wrap things up, I will reiterate: I don’t understand why this movie was reviewed so well. Just because something is confusing doesn’t make it good. That makes it bad. If I heard there was a cool shoot-em-up movie starring Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon Levitt as assassins, where people explode all over the place and then I went to see that movie and found out it was Looper, I’d be pissed. I was pissed. I am pissed. I still want the awesome shoot-em-up I was promised, but next time, please, for the love of God, leave out the sci-fi.