Hollywood has a difficult relationship with science fiction. Whether they're translating classic sci-fi stories into brainless action movies or too caught up in the otherworldly details there's always something they can't seem to get right about the imaginative genre.
Looper defies the odds by fleshing out a unique future world while honing in on a specific story with real people at the center — a balance that defined works by greats like Bradbury Asimov and Dick. Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a Looper an assassin for the mob bosses of the future who use illegal time travel to send back their targets for disposal. It's an easy lucrative life — one that affords him a party lifestyle of fancy cars and drops (drugs taken through the eye) albeit with the added knowledge of a definite grisly end. Eventually the mob "closes the loop" on its employees finding the Looper in the future and sending them back to be offed by… themselves. When it's Joe's turn to end his own life he's outsmarted his future self (Bruce Willis) escaping Joe's grasp. Driven to fulfill his duties as a Looper Joe goes on the hunt to kill himself.
Director Rian Johnson's Kansas City of 2044 feels appropriately lived in and extended from present day. When Joe's not blasting people away shrouded by the stalks of a cornfield he's dining on steak and eggs at a local diner. It's only the casual presence of hovercycles mutant telekinetics and the occasional visitor from the future that would give away the action of Looper isn't happening today. The realism gives Joe and the metropolis around him a necessary grit — there is danger and violence and pain in this world and when Johnson rouses up an action sequence there's something on the line.
Looper's greatest flaw is that it steps away from the confrontation between Young and Old Joe sending the two in different directions as they pursue answers to the film's spoilerific MacGuffin. On a farm away from the city Young Joe crosses paths with single mother Sara (Emily Blunt) who may hold the key to what Old Joe needs to survive. After being introduced to an ensemble of delightfully wicked characters — including Looper coordinator Abe (Jeff Daniels) Young Joe's sleazy coworker Seth (Paul Dano) and hotshot marksman Kid Blue (Noah Sagan) — plus Young Joe's stripper with a heart of gold confidant Suzie (Piper Perabo) Looper takes a sharp left turn leaving most of the cast in the dust. The interesting sci-fi mosaic slows down and enters a new chapter and it's rarely as engrossing as the first half.
When Willis and Gordon-Levitt are at odds Looper is simply magic. Nathan Johnson's industrial score pounds away as the two fight to stay alive all while grappling with the implications that come with glimpsing into your own future. One riveting sequence follows the timeline that played out before Old Joe tinkered with the space-time continuum a roller coaster through the years after the events of the film that see Gordon-Levitt evolve into Willis. The montage is a playground for Johnson's visual style. He never misses a beat.
For sci-fi nuts Looper corrects the past with an understanding of what makes the genre more than just an array of tropes and iconography. There are shaded characters duking it out in Looper's chaotic web of time travel logic and while their arcs fizzle out without much pay off they're a joy to watch.
What do you think? Tell Matt Patches directly on Twitter @misterpatches and read more of his reviews on Rotten Tomatoes!
October 24, 2001 11:04am EST
In 1979 the benevolent Jimmy Bones (Snoop Dogg) was the protector of his thriving neighborhood until a local drug peddler kills him after he refused to take part in a deal that would have brought crack cocaine into the community. Worried about being incriminated big bad Eddie Mac forces everyone in the room to take a stab at the legendary protector with a switchblade including a dirty cop Bones's right hand man his best friend Jeremiah and his girlfriend Pearl (Pam Grier). If everyone is guilty of the crime he rationalizes no one will squeal. Not a very smart move and--as one of the characters put it--four can keep a secret if three are dead. Twenty-two years later Jeremiah's two sons Patrick (Khalil Kain) and Bill (Merwin Mondesir) buy the brownstone where Bones was killed in hopes of converting it into a nightclub. What they end up doing however is unleashing the ghost of a vengeful Bones embodied in a wet black dog with red eyes. Bones becomes more human every time the rabid pooch eats fresh meat.
Bones is Snoop Dogg's starring film debut. While the role of Jimmy Bones is pivotal his character does not get that much screen time. What we do see through flashbacks and towards the end of the film is a laid-back and mellow Snoop. As a fly cat in the '70s with strangely poetic lines the role seems to have been tailor-made for him. In the role of Bones's psychic girlfriend Pearl Grier (Jackie Brown) is able to play a character with a range of 22 years with ease. Unfortunately there seems to be little chemistry between the two. Perhaps it's the fact that with Bones's pimp-like stature you wonder what someone like Pearl would see in him. But the most impressive and down-to-earth performance in the movie probably comes from Kain (Juice) as Patrick who remains very convincing in such a strange and surreal story line.
Director Ernest Dickerson (Tales from the Crypt Presents Demon Knight) wanted to make Bones in the style of classic horror movies with emphasis on practical and mechanical effects. While he mastered the campiness of the '80s horror genre the movie lacks the dread that predecessors like Nightmare on Elm Street had. The sins of the past revisiting the children theme is frightening enough but the movie resorts to cheap bloodletting for thrills instead. There is lots of gore and creepy shadows but the characters--Snoop's in particular--are confusing. Even though he was this legendary protector of the neighborhood we never really sympathize with him especially when he goes after his own daughter with a switchblade. The only character you end up caring about is Patrick whom you hope will escape the grips of this dark avenger. But Bones could definitely become an interesting franchise character if the story and characters were more refined.