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'Looper' a fun, fresh sci-fi film

Oct. 05, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

This is not another "Matrix" or "Inception."

At least, I don't think so; because, those two movies, I didn't "get."

"Looper," on the other hand, I got -- with a passion. This is a really well done movie about youth and old age fighting (both literally and figuratively) with each other.

Yes, there are many similarities with James Cameron's Time Travel sci-fi classic "The Terminator," and, at first glance, some could say that writer/director Rian Johnson actually stole the plot from the Schwarzenegger movie.

We have here a movie where someone from the future is sent back in time to be killed, but then tries to kill the child who will grow up to terrorize (not save) the future. Sort of a reverse "Terminator" plot.

But to me, this was a more advanced version of a classic Twilight Zone episode called... oh second thought, never mind -- I don't want to spoil the surprise for you.

Let's just say that Bill Mumy will get a kick out of watching this ("That was a good thing, you did, Anthony, wishing him into the cornfield...").

I'll try not to give away any major plot points in this review, but it will be difficult. Let's just say that director and writer Rian Johnson's story is not very original, but still feels "fresh."

Once you get by the usual thoughts and conversations about what will change who and when in the future when you change something in the past -- which is always encountered in a time travel book or movie -- it's just plain fun.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt ("The Dark Knight Rises," "Premium Rush," "Third Rock From the Sun") is Joe, a young man with promise who works for the Mob in 2044. The only way for Organized Crime to kill someone and dispose of the body 30 years down the road, is to send the victim back in time, to be killed by "Loopers" like Joe.

One flaw that sticks out is that they don't kill the victim AND THEN send them back. Another flaw is that they don't just send them back to 1,000 B.C., and eliminate the costly Looper Assassin culture altogether.

But, that would make for a very short movie.

Gordon-Levitt's character is done as well as his recent role in "Premium Rush," but the film's effort to make him look like a younger Bruce Willis harms the effect. He does a great imitation of the Willis smirk, but the prosthetic nose job gets in the way of every close up scene in the movie.

Veteran action star Bruce Willis ("Die Hard," "Moonlighting," "Red") is Old Joe, actually, Gordon-Levitt's character with thirty years of history. Like today's young folks say, "It's complicated."

Willis is his usual over-confident, manly-man self, almost identical to a dozen roles that make his a top star. And that's okay, here, as he plays a veteran hit man for the Mob, who just wants to find and destroy the sadistic killer from the future, who is only a child in the 2044 present.

Like I said, quite "Terminator"ish.

Playing a strange role as the child's mother, Emily Blunt ("The Devil Wears Prada," "The Young Victoria," "The Five-Year Engagement") is almost an exact replica of Linda Hamilton's character in the original "Terminator," right down to her name being Sara. She does her best to break beyond the comparison, but fails in the attempt.

The classic Mob Boss (present) is played by Jeff Daniels ("Dumb & Dumber," "Blood Work," "Pleasantville"), who has fun with his role, being quite different from a flashy Capone or Gotti, more like a low key Soprano.

Piper Perabo ("Coyote Ugly," "Covert Affairs," "Whiteboyz") takes a break from her television show to appear (topless at times) as Suzie the Hooker. I have no idea the reasoning as to why she is even here (probably explained in film left somewhere on the cutting room floor).

A beautiful Chinese actress named Qing Xu ("Farewell My Concubine," "The Founding of a Republic") briefly makes a "dream" appearance or two as Old Joe's wife, but has no lines or real "scenes," other than to show that the old hit man has feelings and is emotionally hurting.

Everyone's acting is good, with very little hamming it up or over zealousness. The movie seems longer than its two hour playing time, but seldom drags.

A glaring error in the time line shows 1980s era vehicles and 1950s era diners, in 2044, which would make the diner almost 100 years old and the pick-up a definite antique, while the use of early 21st Century cars (which would have made them 30-40 years old) would have still given the movie the low class economic atmosphere it was looking for. Perhaps the Powers That Be did not want to invest in the cost of showing futuristic transportation (CGI or otherwise).

Speaking of CGI, I appreciated the lack thereof. This was an old-style sci-fi piece, relying on acting, set design and storyline -- something we don't see enough of at the multiplex nowadays.

"Looper" was 1,000 percent better than I expected it to be. It was not an "Avatar" or "Alien," but it is well done, with a fun story told in a fun way. Go see this one and have fun.

Billy Summers is a freelance photographer who also reviews films for the Putnam Herald. He can be reached at summers855@yahoo.com.