Friday, November 2, 2012

REVIEW: Looper (2012)

Contrary to what you may hear from critics, writing professors, and my roommate (who's a little of both), plotholes don't matter as much as you think.  Yes, a plothole can be so big the whole damn film falls through it.  But if a film has you on the hook moment by moment—if the film simply works—it can skirt the edges, and you'll be on your way out of the theater before it even hits you.  This goes doubly if the film qualifies as some sort of "noir", and Looper, the third film by the super-cool Rian Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom), is nothing if not a noir offshoot.  There are unanswered questions and lapses of logic in Chinatown, The Third Man, and The Big Heat, only nobody notices because the films are too busy being great.

All of which is to say that, under scrutiny, the basic premise of Looper isn't exactly airtight.  It's a time travel game: we're told that in the future, it's very hard to dispose of a dead body without leaving evidence, so when the mob wants someone to disappear, they send them 30 years into the past to be assassinated by specialized killers called "loopers."  Now, you may ask: why don't they just send them to the stone age?  Or better yet, why don't they just kill them first, which they seem to have no problem doing, and then send the corpse back in time?  Why bother dealing with loopers at all?  But none of that matters, because the first half of the film is some of the very best, most stylish pop filmmaking of the year, with an emphasis on "pop" and built around a diabolically compelling premise: a cat-and-mouse game between a cold yuppie killer and his older, more sensitive future self.

But a premise is only as good as its payoff, and Looper unfortunately loses its way in the second half—you will know it by the presence of Emily Blunt—where it drops much of what made it so distinctive and becomes an amalgam of films we've already seen, like The Terminator, X-Men, The Omen.  The transition is jarring (introducing main characters in the second half is an iffy idea), the momentum goes slack (are we still in Emily Blunt's house?), and the nihilistic atmosphere dissipates.  And that's when plotholes start mattering.

My roommate's alternate title suggestion: "Bruce Willis Hunts Children For Unborn Asian Lover."

3 out of 5 stars.

Looper may still be in theaters.  If not, wait we must.