LOOPER, a sci-fi flick set in 2044 about an assassin who gets rich by killing people transported from the future, has the kind of premise that anyone who's familiar with the Terminator or (on a lighter note) Back to the Future series can appreciate. The kicker in this film occurs when the young killer comes face-to-face with his middle-aged self and suffers what might euphemistically be called an identity crisis.
The movie features Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, playing the same character 30 years apart, which explains why the latter has been given a facial makeover to look like some distant cousin of the bicycle messenger character he plays in the recently released Premium Rush. Besides, it was probably an easier option than making Willis up to look like an older version of Gordon-Levitt.
Viewers may find it vaguely disconcerting trying to visualise that last concept but that's nothing compared to the mental gymnastics that viewers are compelled to perform while trying to rationalise various plot points during the course of the film. The best approach is to forget about connecting all the dots and simply enjoy the ride: it's entertaining enough to warrant your undivided attention.
The film, written and directed by Rian Johnson, is a frantic journey in the life of Joe Simmons (Gordon-Levitt), a specialised assassin whose only task is to show up at an assigned spot at a predetermined time and wait until a person materialises, before blasting him into the afterlife with his blunderbuss (a shotgun-like weapon).
It's a bit of a dead-end job, and monotonous as well, but someone's got to do it - and it pays pretty well to dispose of some poor sap from the future who has been targeted for elimination by gangsters who wield tremendous power and influence. The loopers from 2044 are just helping to tie up loose ends. The loop is closed, as it were, when the killer's older self is sent back in time, with enough gold bars strapped to his body so that his assassin can enjoy the next - and final - 30 years of his life.
Naturally, when Joe's number is up, his older self (Bruce Willis) shows up and tries to beat the system, going instead on a mission to find - and kill - the boy who grows up to become a Mob kingpin. Joe simply needs to find himself, as it were, to assure his continued survival. There are moments - especially during an extended segment at a remote farmhouse - when an existential debate seems in danger of breaking out but thankfully, saner movie-making heads prevail.
Looper is primarily the Bruce and Joseph show but there is time enough for a few actors to make an impact in secondary roles. These include Suzie (Piper Perabo) as a stripper who has a "services rendered" type of relationship with Joe; Sara (Emily Blunt), a vulnerable but protective single mother who lives on a farm with her young son (Pierce Gagnon) and Abe (Jeff Daniels), the man who gives Joe his assignments.
Looper is a little bit self-conscious but it does project a strong sense of purpose, holding our attention and going about its business in an impressive manner. It's a serious attempt at being a smart film and in the end, we shouldn't be too disappointed that it only semi-succeeds.