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- "I am one of many specialized assassins in our present called loopers. So when criminal organizations in the future need gone, they zap them back to me and I eliminate the target from the future. Loopers are well paid. We live the good life and the only rule is never let your target escape, even if your target is you."
Played By: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
- Anti-Hero: Young Joe is a Nominal Hero at the start of the movie. He's (mostly) self-centered, has no qualms executing people for the mob, and shows few signs of heroism throughout most of the film. He develops more into an Unscrupulous Hero when Cid becomes something of a Morality Pet for him in the third act.
- Byronic Hero: Joe himself is a hitman who not only works for himself but is also a flawed protagonist with a mysterious past that is never mentioned.
- Functional Addict: Averted. While relatively efficient at their jobs, both Joes are crippling addicts to the "eyedrop drug." Somewhat played straight with Old Joe however, as he's been off the stuff thanks to his wife. The withdrawal symptoms on the other hand look to be similar to heroin, only about a hundred times worse.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Joe's suicide at the climax of the film. He realizes it's the only way to save Sara and hopefully avoid Cid's Start of Darkness.
- Heroic Suicide: Kills himself to stop the cycle that would create the Rainmaker.
- Hitman with a Heart: Develops into this over time, especially with Love Redeems in play.
- It's All About Me: His defining flaw. Joe is always focused on himself first and foremost, even selling out Seth just so he wouldn't have to part with half the silver he'd saved up. It takes the events of the film for him to grow out of it.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He may be a hedonistic and self-serving asshole most of the time, but he does have his moments of showing that he's not a completely terrible person:
- He does grow to care about Cid and is shown attempting to help Cid when he falls down the stairs. That doesn't stop him from almost killing Cid when he finds out he'll become the Rainmaker in the future, but he stops himself.
- When discussing his future with Old Joe, he asks Old Joe to show him what his future wife looks like so he'll know to stay away from her, which would save her life. Old Joe refuses, however.
- He offers up half his silver to save Suzie from continuing to live an unhappy life as a prostitute.
- He genuinely feels guilty about selling out Seth for silver.
- At the end of the movie, he sacrifices his future by performing a Heroic Suicide to end the cycle of revenge that would create the Rainmaker.
- Love Redeems: In stark contrast to Old Joe.
- Redemption Equals Death: Redeems himself for his past as a hitman by destroying the main threat in the future... by committing Heroic Suicide.
- Shadow Archetype: He and Old Joe ultimately become this.
- Taking You with Me: Kills himself in order to erase Old Joe from existence and (hopefully) stop Cid from becoming the Rainmaker.
- Took a Level in Kindness: Young Joe is initially very greedy and selfish, prefering to rat out a friend rather than losing half of his silver, but he became a better person after his character development and by the end of the film he even sacrifices himself in order to save the lives of Sara and Cid.
- Villain Protagonist: Young Joe is a hedonistic junkie who wants no part of his future's Crapsack World.
Played By: Bruce Willis
- Always Save the Girl: Old Joe will do just about anything to save his wife. However, when given the option to stop his past self from meeting her, he refuses. He cannot sacrifice their relationship.
- Anti-Villain: Has sympathetic goals when trying to save his wife and prevent the rise of a merciless underworld kingpin. However, he's unwilling to sacrifice his relationship with his wife to save her, and is willing to kill children to stop the kingpin (though he's also tormented by guilt when he does).
- Apologetic Attacker: He cried after killing the first Rainmaker prospect.
- Bald Head of Toughness: He has gone bald in his later years with flashbacks of his time in China even showing his gradually receding hairline. Nonetheless, he's still extremely tough and capable.
- Big Bad: The conflict between Young Joe and him is the main point of the film. After losing his wife, he sets out to kill the Rainmaker, who turns out to be Cid and won't let anything stop him.
- Create Your Own Villain: Almost. Killing Sara would have set Cid on the path to becoming the Rainmaker, but Young Joe's suicide prevents Cid's descent into villainy.
- Crusading Widower: His reason for his mission.
- Cunning Linguist: In addition to Mandarin from his time in China, he also kept learning French and improved considerably at it.
- Determinator: He won't stop at anything, not even at killing children, in order to save his wife in the future.
- Evil Old Folks: Exceptionally good at combat despite being in his 50s, which puts him at least a decade older than just about everyone he goes up against.
- Future Badass: While Young Joe, as a Looper, is a killer and criminal, his weapons experience basically boils down to shooting bound and gagged prisoners with a blunderbuss. Old Joe, however, has a few decades of hardened crime life under his belt, and is therefore much more of a threat.
- He Who Fights Monsters: By trying to stop the events of the past to save his wife, he becomes a child-murdering monster.
- Hypocrite: He accuses his younger self of being selfish, but when Young Joe tells him to tell him who his future wife is so that he can stay away from her, which would save her from being killed by the Rainmakers men in the future, he refuses because he doesn't want to give her up.
- I Hate Past Me: He has no kind words for Young Joe.
- Karmic Death: Old Joe was trying to erase the existence of The Rainmaker, by killing a younger version of him, but ironically Young Joe commits suicide and Old Joe is erased from existence instead.
- Love Makes You Evil: The film follows his Protagonist Journey to Villain, though he didn't became "evil" per se.
- One-Man Army: He is a highly trained killer who singlehandedly takes out Abe and all his henchmen.
- Protagonist Journey to Villain: In his quest to stop the Rainmaker, he creates the Rainmaker, making him into the Big Bad by the end of the movie.
- Retgone: After Young Joe's suicide, Old Joe simply vanishes from the existence.
- Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Narrowly subverted. If Young Joe hadn't performed a Heroic Suicide, he would have created the very Rainmaker that ruined his life.
- Shadow Archetype: He and Young Joe ultimately become this.
- Skyward Scream: Not heard, but seen doing this in Young Joe's Imagine Spot when he loses Cid right after killing Sara, realizing the doomed future he created.
- Took a Level in Badass: Young Joe is a seasoned executioner, but killing bound, gagged, masked victims with a shotgun doesn't make you a badass. Old Joe, however, has several decades of mercenary work under his belt, expertise with numerous firearms and unarmed combat, and picked up plenty of tactical nous on the way. The first couple of times the two come to direct blows, it isn't even a contest.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Old Joe wants to save his wife. Even if it means shooting children.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Ultimately becomes this as he (almost) creates the Rainmaker.
- Would Hit a Girl: Willing to kill Sara because she's in his way of killing Cid, which ended up causing the Rainmaker's existence.
- Would Hurt a Child: Guns down one of the candidates to become the Rainmaker when he's only a kid. And he doesn't feel good about it one bit.
- "Listen up, fucker! I have shot and buried three vagrants in the past year! So I don't care what hobo sob story you've got. I get a dozen a week, pal. It cuts no cash for me. But if you show your face here again, I will cut you the fuck in half!"
Played By: Emily Blunt
- Action Mom: Handy with a shotgun when it comes down to it.
- Badass Boast: Her first major line has her delivering one while aiming the rifle at the apparent intruder in the corn field. Played with in that Joe quickly realises she's overcompensating - as she's spending too much time describing what she's going to do than actually doing it.
- Good Bad Girl: She used to be a Hard-Drinking Party Girl but has now reformed. Or is trying to.
- Mama Bear: Sara makes an effort to be this trope personified, except she's way softer than she plays at. Most of her badass is bluster, which Joe twigs to quickly.Sara: This is a Remington 870. One blast could cut you the fuck in ha—
Joe: (cutting her off) In half. Yeah, that's telling. You're holding a gun, I say I'm not afraid, so you describe the gun to me. It's not the gun I'm not afraid of.
- Mind over Matter: She's got genetic telekinesis powers, or TK, and they're a bit stronger than most people's. In her wild youth, she'd challenge would-be suitors to move a quarter, then hold it with her own power for her own amusement. Her son got them with compound interest.
- Morality Chain: Cid's transformation into the Rain Maker is implied to have been started by watching her get killed. Her influence is what causes him to spare older Joe.
- Parental Abandonment: She didn't want to have Cid and dumped him on her sister for years.
- Reluctant Warrior: Downplayed. Sara doesn't want to kill anyone, but has to protect her farm from vagrants in some way. She uses a shotgun loaded with rock salt; highly unlikely to be fatal, but it hurts like hell.
Played By: Paul Dano
- Cruel and Unusual Death: Displaced by 30 years, but he has to live until then in his mutilated state.
- Decoy Protagonist: Well, Decoy Deuteragonist. He's set up to be important in the first act but stops being relevant to the plot shortly after becoming important to it.
- Fate Worse than Death: Implied for young Seth. Abe knows they can't kill him (because he needs to survive long enough to be sent back in time and complete the loop), so instead condemns him to 30 years bedridden with no limbs, tongue, ears, or nose. The fact he can (presumably) still talk at least lets him narrowly avert And I Must Scream.
- Large Ham: He's pretty dramatic and loud, as one would expect from Paul Dano.
Played By: Frank Brennan
- And I Must Scream: Averted, Seth begins to scream in horror as he watches his limbs and fingers disappear, one by one, only for his tongue to disappear as well, making him unable to speak properly but is cut short with a bullet to the head.
- Body Horror: His Cruel and Unusual Death involves Fingore, both An Arm and a Leg, Tongue Trauma, and Facial Horror before dying by headshot.
- Half the Man He Used to Be: What's left of Old Seth by the time he makes it to the Doc.
- "Know why they call that peashooter of yours blunderbuss? Because it's impossible to hit anything farther than 15 yards. Impossible to miss anything closer. It's a gun for fuck-up turkeys."
Played By: Noah Segan
- Avenging the Villain: His entire involvement in the final showdown is motivated by his desire to avenge Abe's death at Old Joe's hand.
- Big Bad Wannabe: Blue has aspirations to be something greater, but he's far too incompetent to be taken seriously.
- The Chew Toy: Things rarely go right for Kid Blue, although it's usually his own fault.
- Determinator: Credit where credit's due; he doesn't give up, even if it's the smart thing to do. Especially since this involved driving a hoverbike with a single broken hand, pulling off reasonably accurate shots with his offhand in the meantime.
- Establishing Character Moment: Mishandling his gun and being mocked by his co-workers establishes Blue as a notorious fuck-up.
- The Gunfighter Wannabe: Whelp. Blue runs around in a Badass Longcoat, wields an older fashioned silver revolver, twirls said revolver like a 5-year-old messing with their dad's gun, holsters it in an old west style holster, and really, really overestimates his skills with a gun. He's clearly been watching too many Westerns. Or maybe not enough.
- Gun Twirling: Frequently does this, even though he's shot himself in the foot before.
- Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Hilariously incompetent, but surprisingly not an awful person. Doesn't stop Joe from killing him, though.
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: He has this relationship with Abe.
Played By: Piper Perabo
- All Love Is Unrequited: Young Joe has feelings for her, but she only sees him as another client.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Two examples. Her son turns out to be one of the potential candidates to become the future Rain Maker. Old Joe visiting her apartment also leads to Abe's crew catching him.
- Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Implied. She turns down Joe's offer to give her half his silver, insisting she'd rather earn her money on her own.
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: She seems good-natured enough, and she's working as a prostitute to provide for her son. She also appears to comfort Joe when he's sad selling out Seth, though it's debatable how much she cares about his plight, as she tries to do her job despite his sadness and she can be seen watching the clock, waiting for the time Joe booked her to run out. Joe takes the hint that she only sees him as a client after this, this revelation combined with the fact that she rejects his attempt to help her because she has no interest in being "tied" to him.
- The Not-Love Interest: Set up to be Joe's love interest initially, though she makes it clear that she has no interest in him romantically which makes Joe give up on her. In all future timelines, she's replaced by Old Joe's unnamed wife, and in the main timeline, with Sara.
- Stepford Smiler: It's implied that she doesn't enjoy her job despite the front she puts on for her clients, including Joe. However, when Joe offers to give her silver so she can be "saved" from this lifestyle, she flatly rejects him, as she doesn't want to be bound to him and would prefer to earn money on her own.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Her fate in the future isn't alluded to at all. It can only be assumed that Joe lost all contact with her after realizing she had no interest in him romantically.
- Your Makeup Is Running: In the scene before she offers Young Joe her services, her makeup appears to be smudged as if she had been crying.
- "Ask yourself, who would I sacrifice for what's mine?"
Played By: Jeff Daniels
- Big Bad Wannabe: Abe leads the mobsters Young Joe works for and he's a vicious torturer who seems to be the main threat to Joe but Old Joe easily kills him after he becomes a problem, showing just how little Abe really mattered.
- Break Them by Talking: His preferred method of dealing with troublemakers. A few minutes' conversation, and Joe is ready to give up Seth's location rather than lose half his silver. If talking doesn't work...well, that's what the hammer on Abe's desk is for.
- Disc-One Final Boss: He's killed by Old Joe before the finale.
- The Fagin: According to Word of God, Abe acts as a Parental Substitute for the young street thugs he recruits as his assassins.
- A Father to His Men: Seems to be quite close to his henchmen including Kid Blue despite of the latter's incompetence. That said, his patience has limits.
- Faux Affably Evil: Abe just wants to have nice talks with people until they give him what he wants... or until he gets fed up and smashes their hands with a ball-peen hammer.
- Pretty Little Headshots: None of the firearms Old Joe wields in his assault on Abe's HQ would leave such a tiny little hole in someone's head.
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: Has this relationship with Kid Blue.
Played By: Pierce Gagnon
- Ambiguous Start of Darkness: Shows some creepy and amoral tendencies before Old Joe goes after his mother, making it unclear if Young Joe saving his mother will ultimately stop the Rainmaker.
- Badass Adorable: This little boy has the potential to become a Person of Mass Destruction, being way more powerful than his mother. And he does, in the timeline where he becomes the Rainmaker.
- Child Prodigy: He is obviously a budding genius. At his young age, he's able to make astute observations and has impressive electrical skills.
- Creepy Child: Particularly when he loses control of his TK.
- Facial Horror: After Old Joe shoots him, he gets a pretty nasty wound on his face.
- From Nobody to Nightmare: Cid to The Rainmaker, who "came out of nowhere" and took over organized crime.
- Future Badass: He is the kid who could grow up to be the Rainmaker.
- Mind over Matter: His powers, like his mother. Only even moreso.
- Person of Mass Destruction: Cid, a freakishly powerful telekinetic who may or may not become the Rainmaker, who's described as having destroyed five ultra-powerful crime syndicates at once.
- Power Incontinence: Given how young he is, he has very little control over his abilities.
- Ambiguous Start of Darkness: Given he still existed in Old Joe's timeline where he shot his Old Joe, this puts the Stable Time Loop in question whether it can explain his villainy or not.
- The Dreaded: The Rainmaker, an evil crime lord from the future who took control of every mob family single-handedly, and now presides over an international reign of terror and mass murder. As such, everyone is understandably terrified of them.
- From Nobody to Nightmare: The Rainmaker begins life raised on an idyllic farm in an otherwise pretty dystopian society. Only after the death of his mother at the hands of a looper does he set out on his path to take over the entire criminal underworld.
- Greater-Scope Villain: While the conflict between Young Joe and Old Joe is the focus of the film, the Rainmaker's takeover in the future is the catalyst for the events of the film.
- One-Man Army: The Rainmaker, a powerful telekinetic who takes over several extremely powerful crime syndicates singlehandedly.
- Red Baron: The Rainmaker, the terrifying future crimelord who sets the movie's plot into motion, the phrase 'reign of terror' is used, making it a pun. It's shown to have another meaning when his powers are demonstrated.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: In the timeline where he becomes the Rainmaker. He watches his mother be killed, and that becomes his Start of Darkness. He eventually orders all Loopers killed, presumably trying to prevent his mother's death.
- The Spook: Absolutely nothing is known about The Rainmaker, what he looks like, where he came from, his real name, the source of his power or even their gender. All Joe has to go on is an area code of where he was raised.
Played By: Garret Dillahunt
- Alas, Poor Villain: Being one of the nicest characters in the film, Jesse really didn't deserve his Cruel and Unusual Death.
- Ludicrous Gibs: Gets utterly ripped apart by Cid's TK, together with the rest of the room they're in, when he accidentally startles the kid.
- Nice Guy: Although he won't be deterred from his amoral and illegal job, he's exceedingly polite about it and tries his best to cause as little disruption as possible.
- Punch-Clock Villain: He's just doing his job, and Young Joe even seems to respect him.
- Wouldn't Hurt a Child: He trains his gun on Cid when startled by him coming down the stairs, but immediately raises his hands to show he's not a threat once it's clear Cid is a child.
- Old Joe: "You don't understand. We don't have to give her up. I'm not gonna give her up. I'm gonna save her."
Played By: Qing Xu
- Accidental Murder: One of the Rainmakers men accidentally shoots and kills her when she comes to investigate the commotion happening inside her home. It's unknown if they would have killed her on purpose had they known she was there instead of simply being surprised by her.
- Disposable Woman: She pretty much just exists to get killed and kickstart the plot of the movie. She doesn't even merit a name in the credits.
- Happily Married: With Old Joe until she's killed by the Rainmakers men.
- The Lost Lenore: For Old Joe. Her death is his reason for breaking his loop.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: She saves Joe from his spiraling life of addiction and helps him turn everything around.