Review of Looper (2012)

Moving picture, 119 minutes

Seen in 2022.

In 2044, a hitman kills people sent back from a further-future world where time travel is illegal. It’s used only by the mob to get rid of bodies that would be too easy for the police to trace in that further future. Each hitman gets a bonus when he kills the future version of himself to tie up loose ends.

I came in hoping for a Twelve Monkeys (1995) mashed up with “By His Bootstraps” (1941), but I got a Domu (1980) instead. A “Domu” ain’t bad, because as a story about time travel, Looper is too dumb. It’s predicated on an elastic non-determinism similar to the photographic redevelopment of Back to the Future (1985), which does not make any sense.

Steering away from the nominal subject of time travel on industrial sets, the writer-director steers toward a moral dichotomy around a telekinetic kid: Cid. The question is whether his hot pastoral mom can shape Cid into something other than a supervillain through the magical power of parenting. In reality, parents do not actually transfer much of their morality to their children through nurture—it’s mainly nature and culture in a larger social group—so that question makes as little sense as the time travel. The kid as a character is still interesting though.

The action sequences late in the movie have some charming glitches. There are a lot of generic corrupt-dystopia goons, as in Equilibrium (2002). In one scene, Bruce Willis—doing one of the last two decent performances of his career as old Joe—is shooting such goons with a pistol when he suddenly switches from a BFR to a P90 so quickly that it barely registers as continuity. He then upgrades to dual P90s, which is a silly video-game-tropey move. The last fight between the younger Joe and the Kid has janky VFX and strange shot continuity even for a movie with a lot of deliberate Dutch angles; it’s pretty cute.

References here: Story of Science Fiction (2018).

moving picture fiction