For about an hour, "Looper" really cooks. Its second half is more of a medium boil, and less fun. But watching it, I realized how few commercial entertainments hold up straight through to the end-point.
Even a clever and idiosyncratic filmmaker such as
Still, and in ways that make the results worth seeing: That first hour cooks. And the second hour brings
Far beyond the retro stylizations of his earlier films -- the Dashiell Hammett-soaked "Brick" (2006) and the madcap-heiress picaresque "The Brothers Bloom" (2009) -- Johnson's third feature plays make-believe for keeps. This is a time-travel movie. For a large swath of the moviegoing population, especially the fantasists and futurists among us, time-travel is as strong a hook as "boy meets girl" or "the show must go on" or "whoever opposes
The star of "Brick" six years ago,
Johnson sets all this up extremely well. The glimpses of the technology we're afforded in "Looper," notably the hovercrafts, are fleeting and evocative. The picture is a modest triumph of midsize budgeting and sparing effects that don't compete with the human beings. The violence, for a while, comes in fast, brutal bursts, neither sadistic nor jocular in tone.
Gordon-Levitt, wearing subtle and artful makeup that nudges his face closer to that of a young
There's a lot going on here, including scenes of Older Joe and his wife (
If the first half of "Looper" could talk to the second half, it would probably say: Don't overcomplicate. Even so, the actors are excellent. And Johnson's ambitions remain bracingly high.
"Looper" Movie Trailer
MPAA rating: R (for strong violence, language, some sexuality/nudity and drug content).
Running time: 1:58.
Credits: Written and directed by
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