In “Looper,” the future is confusing, and heavily armed.
Around the 2070s — criminal gangs send their victims back in time to be rubbed out by so-called “specialized assassins” called Loopers. A victim materializes at a specific time and place — say a cornfield in Kansas at 11:30 a.m. — hooded and bound, and “Boom!” is instantly blown away by a waiting Looper wielding a big blunderbuss. Into an incinerator goes the late unlamented. With no body to be found in the future, nobody in authority is the wiser as to what went down in the past.
Yes, it’s a rather convoluted and technically complicated way to dispatch someone, but writer-director Rian Johnson is only getting started with his convolutions.
Add a wrinkle that the Loopers are term-limited and that when their usefulness is at an end, they’re grabbed, bound and sent back to be offed by their younger selves. The movie calls it “closing the loop.” I call it a rather significant plot conundrum.
Why would the killers go along with this arrangement? Knowing what lies ahead, wouldn’t they move heaven and arth to avoid the hand of fate?
It’s best not to think too deeply about that detail or the picture might unravel. Fortunately, Johnson keeps us distracted with a corkscrew’s worth of plot twists, some involving telekinesis and matters occult. And as this is a movie starring Bruce Willis, there is plenty of gunplay.
Best of all, the picture has the talented Joseph-Gordon Levitt playing the younger version of Willis’ aging assassin-target character. He does a remarkable job of channeling the Bruce-man, from the laconic-sardonic manner with which he delivers his dialogue to the half-grimace, half-smirk on his mug, another Willis trademark. Remarkably subtle but effective makeup helps him carry off the imposture.
In the past, the young killer hunts Bruce-from-the-future who’s on a mission to change the future by doing what he does best: killing people. And other assassins with large guns are trying to kill both the young and old iterations. In the middle of the cat-and-mouse maneuverings, Johnson plants Emily Blunt as a tormented young woman very protective of her little boy.
Woven into all of this is a central dilemma of characters weighing whether to do terrible deeds to prevent something even worse from happening.
Intellectually provocative and hyperviolent, “Looper” surprises at every turn. It’s a tart and twisty treat. ‘Looper’
* * * *
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Jeff Daniels
Director: Rian Johnson
Running time: 1:58
Rating: R; violence, language, sexual situations, nudity, drug use