Looper (2012)


It’s Going to Happen to YOU, It’s Not Going to Happen to ME!

Looper (2012)When I originally heard about today’s movie, I had exactly zero intention of watching it.  It reminded me of the movie Premium Rush in more ways than just sharing a main actor.  It also just seemed like a super basic action movie that really had nothing to set itself apart from any other random action movie I could choose to watch instead.  But, as my end of the year review was coming up, my friend Greg told me that this movie would probably have to be his movie of the year, even after we had both just seen Django Unchained, which ended up making third on my list.  I decided that I had to see it, and was actually able to accomplish that before the year ended, it just still didn’t make my list in any capacity.  And, since it didn’t make top or bottom of 2012, what level of mediocrity did this movie attain?  We’ll find out as I review Looper, written and directed by Rian Johnson, and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Pierce Gagnon, Jeff Daniels, Noah Segan, Xu Qing, Paul Dano, and Piper Perabo.

In 2044, Joseph Simmons (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) works for the mafia as a “looper.”  With Minority Report going on, the only way to kill someone is to have them sent through time with silver strapped to their backs to be killed and disposed of by Loopers so that no one would notice, since they weren’t supposed to be there in the first place.  The only caveat is that their contract will eventually end as well.  They know that their contract is at an end when the older version of themselves is sent back with gold strapped to their backs to be killed by the younger version of themselves.  When this happens, they are no longer Loopers and live with this gold until someone takes them and sends them back to the point when they kill themselves.  But this creates a lot of problems if the Looper fails to kill themselves, as Joseph finds out when his friend Seth (Paul Dano) fails to close his own loop, leaving the mob boss Abe (Jeff Daniels) to have to take care of the situation in a brutal way.  That doesn’t really help Joseph learn from his mistakes though because Old Joe (Bruce Willis) gets sent back and knocks young Joseph out.  Joseph has to fix the problem before Abe takes it into his own hands.

This movie was pretty fantastic.  It wasn’t quite able to make its way into my top list of 2012, but it was not far off.  The surface of the movie feels like a pretty standard action movie, but the science fiction stuff compounded with the time travel stuff makes this movie have a lot more going on under the surface than I would’ve expected.  Time travel always tends to leave a lot of plot holes in a movie, but I felt like this one was handled so deftly that I didn’t notice any plot holes at all.  I’m not saying they weren’t there, but I was so riveted by the story that I wasn’t bored enough to pay attention to trying to find any.  And parts of it were just shocking.  Like what Bruce Willis sets to doing when he gets loose back in time and decides he needs to stop the Rainmaker.  I couldn’t believe they went there.  The story actually has a lot of surprises in it, all the way up to – and including – the end of the movie.  The situation did make me laugh a little bit just because it seems the character Joe would fall in love with anybody as long as they helped him recover from his addiction.  Old Joe fell in love with the Asian lady because she helped him out with that, and Joseph falls in love with Emily Blunt because she helped him through his withdrawals.  Thank God Joe never met Dr. Drew.  That could’ve turned out weird.

The effects and action in the movie were all solid.  The look of the future was never over the top like Back to the Future Part 2 makes it look like it will be in 2 years, but they had enough going on that it didn’t seem exactly contemporary.  The most futuristic thing was probably those jet motorcycles they used.  Those seemed almost over the top, and also sounded like the land speeders from Star Wars.  There were parts where they looked a little goofy, but never enough to take me out of the movie.

The performances in the movie were all pretty great, but none of them ever really did much to give me cause to talk about them.  I heard a lot of talk about Joseph Gordon-Levitt and how he did such an amazing job becoming Bruce Willis, but I didn’t really notice that.  He did a good job in the movie, but he actually felt more like DeNiro than Willis to me.  I also heard a lot about how good the kid, Pierce Gagnon, did in the movie.  That one I totally agree with.  That kid was pretty crazy.

My expectations for Looper went from complete disinterest because of the trailers to expecting a lot because of the opinions of my friends.  In the end, Looper ended up being a fantastic movie that far exceeded my original expectations while not quite making it to the point where they met up with the hyperbole my friends used.  The story was fantastic and surprising, the action and visuals worked really well, and the performances were all completely solid.  I can understand not completely trusting this movie enough to purchase it straight away, but I imagine any rental of it stands a good chance of leading to a purchase.  Check this movie out.  Looper gets “I’m from the future.  You should go to China” out of “This time travel crap, just fries your brain like an egg…”

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Flash Point (2007)


The Point at Which Flashing Happens

I believe today is the first time I’ve received a request from my friend Drewchum.  Drewchum is an Asian, so it’s not farfetched to think that the movie he would request would be a martial arts movie.  It’s also not farfetched to think that he just thought about the Pokémon Farfetch’d when I typed that sentence.  Despite my incredible whiteness, I have long been a fan of the martial arts genre of movies, so this was a request I was more than happy to grant.  And the fact that it was available on Netflix streaming only helped the matter.  And the star of this movie is one of my favorite martial artists that’s in prime condition enough to still put out good martial arts movies!  So let’s get into my review of Flash Point, written by Szeto Kam Yuen, directed by Wilson Yip, and starring Donnie Yen, Louis Koo, Collin Chou, Ray Lui, Xing Yu, Fan Bingbing, Kent Cheng, Xu Qing, and Teresa Ha.

Detective Sergeant Ma Jun (Donnie Yen) is working with his undercover partner Wilson (Louis Koo) to take down three drug dealing brothers: Archer (Ray Lui), Tony, (Collin Chou), and Tiger (Xing Yu).  Ma is an unconventional and aggressive cop, but he gets results.  See, even China has clichés.  The brothers are starting to make moves against rival gangs ultimately reaching the point where Tiger tries to kill one of the rival gang leaders with a knife, but Wilson intervenes.  The gang leader survives and agrees to testify against the brothers.  During an attempt to collect their money to flee, Archer is arrested while Wilson’s cover is blown to Tony and Tiger.  Wilson is badly injured when Tony hits him with a car, but he survives.  With the brothers still trying to kill Wilson, Ma must try to protect Wilson while still trying to take down the drug dealers.  But can he do that while still playing by his own rules?!

I’ve been noticing a disappointing trend in the newer age of martial arts movies.  I don’t know if it’s an attempt to copy American movies, or to get noticed in America, or if directors are just getting more artsy fartsy in the Orient, but a lot of martial arts movies are focusing a lot more on story recently than on the action.  That’s right; I called this a disappointing trend.  I want there to be some story when I go into a martial arts movie, but it really doesn’t need to be much more than a reason for the hero to want to punch the face of the villain.  All I need is, “You killed my brother.  Prepare to die.”  What I don’t need to see is the early stages of Wilson’s relationship with his girlfriend, their depressing dates, and them spooning together.  I also don’t need a lot of the random goofy things that they waste time with, such as the random group of old people who wanted to jump in the beach but were not supposed to for some reason (I couldn’t read the sign that probably would have said why in Chinese), or the group of the cops that were playing in a band, with Donnie Yen on the bass drum.  If you’re thinking these two things have absolutely nothing to do with the movie, you’re right.  And what’s worse is the fact that these stupid things and regular parts of the story make the action spread pretty thin.  To the movie’s credit, when the martial arts start in the movie, they’re pretty awesome.  I get the feeling that the fight choreographer just found out about MMA and said, “The world needs to see this shit!  …Y’know, more than they currently do on TV.”  But combining the movie choreography experience of the Asian martial arts movie scene with mixed martial arts has potential, and it’s realized here.  They use a lot of stuff that MMA fans will notice, such as Jiu-Jitsu, boxing, kickboxing trapping and knees to the head, ground and pound, side mount and knees to the ribs, etc.  It all worked really well.  The problem with it was how far apart it was spread.  It starts off with a couple of fairly short fights, has a couple of gun fights and a few car chases and collisions, but doesn’t really come around until the end of the movie.  The very end of the movie is a good collection of action that I had been waiting patiently for through the rest of the movie.  Some cool and stylized gun fights and a very satisfying concluding fight between Ma and Tony.  A lot of cool uses of MMA and wrestling and was what I had been waiting for, but I did think the conclusion of the fight was less than satisfying.  Before that, the only fight worth mentioning happened about 10 minutes earlier when Ma fought Tiger.  The chase leading up to it was pretty cool and bordered on Parkour.  There was even a part where Ma ran along a wall like the Prince of Persia games.  And he suplexed that mother fucker!  I don’t see that nearly enough since I stopped watching WWE.  So, basically, the only thing I truly want to see in a martial arts movie is martial arts, and it’s far too spread out for my taste.  When it happened it was great, but we need to focus up on what we’re good at here and not try to force story into movies that don’t really require it.

I honestly feel like I was barely paying attention to the performances in this movie.  This’ll be a quickie.  I love Donnie Yen.  He’s always a total badass, and able to pull off many different forms of martial arts in movies.  Very versatile, and a pretty decent actor as well.  Louis Koo seemed mopey half the time.  Collin Chou was vaguely intimidating.  Ray Lui and Sing Yu tried too hard.  Fan Bingbing has a funny name, but she was pretty cute in the movie.  Not just physically, but her personality was pretty cute too.  I’m mainly thinking about one scene in the movie when she was laid up in a hospital with her leg in a sling and Louis Koo said something like, “Don’t go anywhere,” and she bobbed her leg up and down in the sling.  It was cute.  And that’s all I’ve got.

Flash Point is a movie that wasn’t able to resonate with me because they focused too much on story.  The story didn’t wind up being anything all that impressive and when you compound that with the fact that the story spread out the action too thin.  When it was there, it was pretty great, but there was just too little of it for me.  Not a bad watch, but there’s some better movies you could watch.  Ip Man, for instance.  But if you’re looking for a martial arts movie, there’s worse ways to spend your time on Netflix streaming.  Flash Point gets “Robert want more punchface!” out of “I need a place to find more movie quotes…”

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