Sunday, 2 September 2012

LOOPER - TIFF 2012 - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Rian Johnson delivers a fun script and first-rate action direction in this SF thriller about time travelling hit men. Plenty of testosterone and a lithe Emily Blunt to more than make up for the smelly macho men.

Looper (2012) ***
dir. Rian Johnson
TIFF 2012 Gala
Starring: Bruce Willis,
Joseph Gordon-Levitt,
Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels

Review By
Greg Klymkiw

I don't believe in guilty pleasures. If the picture is fast-food, so be it. All that matters is that it's McDonald's and not Harvey's. Looper is a double Big Mac with extra Secret Sauce. Yum. Yum. Yum.

By now, the world already knows that this is the mega-spactacular science fiction action thriller where time travelling hit men for the mob bop back and forth to stylishly carry out their odious deeds.

The big twist that everyone also knows because they can't possibly buy a ticket to a movie with knowing absolutely every detail in advance of seeing it is that a hit man must travel in time to put a hit - you guessed it - on himself.

Why he needs to hit himself, I will leave for you to discover - unless you've read a review or puff piece that moronically gives it away. Let's just say, though, that it makes perfect sense so long as you don't think too hard about it.

Writer-Director Rian Johnson's screenplay has so many insane twists and turns, you might have a hard time figuring out exactly where you are "in time", but it won't really matter because it's all plenty fun. That it borrows quite liberally from the time travel machinations of The Terminator and the where-the-fuck-am-I mind bending of the original Total Recall isn't a problem, either. The best rule of thumb in the movies is if you're going to steal, you steal from the best.

Thankfully, Johnson has a great sense of humour and he peppers the piece with a lot of snappy, funny, hard-boiled and occasionally acerbic dialogue. He also doesn't complicate matters too much beyond fleshing out the bare minimum of something resembling character. We get just enough all-beef patties to let us know who people are and why they're doing what they're doing.

A lot has been said about the stunning digital effects used to render Joseph Gordon-Levitt's face to approximate a younger version of Bruce Willis, but what's really worth getting excited about is Gordon-Levitt's spirited performance and the fact that his genuinely agreeable screen presence isn't overshadowed by the F/X team's wizardry. Willis too, is at his stalwart best and when the young and old versions of the same character need to team up, there's a pleasing enough degree of fun to be had seeing two different actors playing the same character.

Though the two sides of the same character provide plenty of conflict, any movie of this kind would be incomplete without a great villain. Jeff Daniels wryly and deliciously serves up one of his best performances in years as the crime boss of the time travelling hit men who is behind the mysterious series of accelerating hits being placed on older versions of the young hit men's selves by themselves.

Confused yet? Don't be. It's not really all THAT complicated.

One of the best things about the picture can be summed up in two words:

Emily Blunt!

This stunning, lithe, sexy gazelle woman provides a nice alternative to all the testosterone in the picture. And, of course, there's nothing sexier than Emily Blunt wielding a deadly phallus-like shotgun.

Bring it on, baby! Blunt's contributions are about as delectable as a barrel full of zesty McDonald's Special Sauce.

Unfortunately, the one place Johnson's script stumbles is an extended period of time involving Blunt and her annoying kid. This, I suppose, is to add a "human factor" to the equation of macho dystopian SF ass-kicking, but it's an additional 15-or-so minutes the movie could have easily done without. It almost irredeemably slows things down - sufficiently enough that we get too much time to think about the story's plot-holes, inconsistencies and occasionally, just how stupid it is.

No matter, though, the very best element of the film is delivered in spades. Johnson's direction of the action and suspense is first-rate. The compositions are nicely rendered, the cutting is never wham-bam-thank-you-m'am and we actually get a bare minimum of the dreaded herky-jerky shooting style that far too many contemporary action movies are saddled with. The action is lean, mean, brutal and often edge-of-the-seat thrilling.

Like a good Big Mac, though, Looper is great while you're ingesting it, but when it's over and done with, it's really all over. As supremely entertaining and well crafted as the movie is, it's fairly disposable. I suspect that two minutes upon leaving the cinema, you might well forget pretty much everything you just saw.

What you'll remember, however, is that the picture was generally more than satisfying while it lasted - four all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.

And Emily Blunt with a gun.

"Looper" was the opening night Gala of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF 2012) and will soon be opening everywhere.