After 30 years of crime and loneliness, Old Joe finally found peace and true love. This is all ripped away by the new boss of his old Mob, so Old Joe's motivations are clear- go back 30 years and prevent the ascent of the mysterious "Rainmaker" who would someday rule the Mob and destroy all he had to live for. Yes, this is the plot of the second "Terminator" movie, except the "John Connor" in Looper is 10 years old and destined to be an evil kingpin, not the leader of the resistance.
Young Joe doesn't appreciate Old Joe's struggle against destiny. Young Joe is thinking short-term: he cannot escape the wrath of the Mob in the here-and-now, as long as his older self defies his fate and muddles in his own history, so Young Joe must kill Old Joe before the Mob catches up to them both.
At the halfway mark, the movie transforms in to the standard Western "standoff at the isolated farmhouse" template- screen doors, pickup trucks, vagrants sleeping in the barn, creaky floorboards, you name it. Emily Blunt (flawless American accent) is Sara, the tough single mother with a shotgun, defending her young son (Pierce Gagnon). Young Joe is the dangerous stranger whom Sara slowly begins to trust; she literally helps clean out his wounds while talking all folksy. All we needed was a cowboy hat.
The sci-fi fan in me appreciated the cleverness of the time travelling: Young Joe cannot keep anything from Old Joe- as soon as Young Joe does something, Old Joe "remembers" it. Remember Marty McFly's family photo, with the disappearing siblings? In Looper, a retired hitman's fingers begin to disappear as his younger self is tortured to death.
The aspect of Looper that I thought would be the biggest problem: Joseph Gordon-Levitt's prosthetic appliances, combined with his Bruce Willis impression, turned out to be surprisingly good. It doesn't change the fact that we all remember what Bruce Willis really looked like 30 years ago. If I were the director, I probably would have just ignored the issue and left off the prosthetics, but they probably helped more than they hurt.
|Bruce Willis 30 years ago and today; JGL playing Bruce at that age (center)|