Film review: Looper (15)
IN A NUTSHELL
Confident writer-director Rian Johnson delivers some mind-bending twists in an ambitious tale of time-travelling gun slingers.
Looper doesn't just deliver one mind-bending action movie - it delivers about four. The fact that two of that number are Back To The Future and Terminator shouldn't irretrievably damage the IQ - for the other two are far more ambitious, complex and intelligent.
Like Inception (which also starred Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the premise is simple but the implications are extraordinary and require a switched-on, forward-facing audience.
The story - along with the stripped down, lo-fi 2044 that is the film's drab setting - come from the fernickety mind of writer-director Rian Johnson, who made a stylish impact with 2005's Brick, also starring Gordon-Levitt for whom he wrote the part of hitman Joe.
Gordon-Levitt's appearance jars at first - like Ed Miliband post-op - but the reason for the brutish physog becomes apparent when the older version of himself is dumped back in his time - it's Bruce Willis.
The head-scratching conceit is this: In the future, the Mob use illegal time-travelling technology to send their marks into the past.
There, hitmen, called loopers, take their lives and the silver strapped to their backs - and dispose of bodies that don't technically exist.
But the loopers are not forward-thinkers. In exchange for loot now, they will have to kill off their future selves at some point.
When Bruce Willis comes back for dispatch, the younger Joe loses his nerve and Willis flees, heading off on a cold-blooded killing spree of his own in order to save his future family.
In some kind of Oedipal nightmare, Young Jo has to destroy his older self because Mob boss Abe (Jeff Daniels), sent back in time to oversee this end of the operation, will ensure both incarnations are bumped off.
But Future Joe, in Terminator style, is on the trail of the kid who will grow up to be the Rainmaker, the fearsome uber-boss who triggers his death 30 years' hence.
Present Joe has sufficient clues to predict his targets and finds himself in the remote homestead of tough-but-vulnerable Emily Blunt where she tends to the needs of odd toddler Cid.
While the blank (indeed unpleasant) duo of Present and Future Joe lack any kind of sympathy or charisma, Blunt's Sara is the damaged soul who, finally, brings a welcome human dimension to the movie.
But Blunt doesn't take top acting honours. They go to wee Pierce Gagnon who manages to convey menace and enigma despite being cute as an psycho button.
This hard-but-brittle flick is a slow-starter (all that infernal exposition) and the downtime is too easily spent ticking off the derivative time-travelling tropes.
However, the spectacular (and genuinely shocking) final sequences make up for the shortage of early charm and tie up the cleverly twisting plotlines with panache.
The film is not always likeable but it is a solid two hours of truly mind-bending entertainment.