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Bruce Willis is 'Old Joe' in 'Looper.' Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays his younger self.
McCLATCHY-TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE
Joseph Gordon-Levitt utterly masters the Bruce Willis squint, where the action hero narrows his eyes, furrows his brow and purses his lips.
He gives us a little of the Willis smirk, the one Bruce breaks out when he's about to let go a whispered threat. Yeah, JGL has that whispered threat thing down, too.
Levitt needs to master All Things Willis for "Looper," in which he plays a time-travel-era assassin who discovers that his latest hit is on himself--the AARP-eligible version of himself.
Loopers are fellows who, in the future, stand next to the spot some poor hoodlum from the future is shipped back to, bound and hooded.
The looper shoots the guy with a short-range shotgun, still called a blunderbuss. And if the looper is smart, he's already got the victim lined up to land on a tarp, to make cleanup a snap.
Joe is such a looper, a favorite of The Boss (Jeff Daniels), a loner who hoards silver ingots future crooks use to pay him (strapped on victims' bodies), who is addicted to the latest drug--administered in eyedrops--and too fond of a stripper/ hooker (Piper Perabo).
But a crime boss of the future, "The Rain Maker," is sending aged loopers back through time to be executed by their younger selves. Which they dutifully do, even as they realize they now have only so long to live.
Joe is tipped to the agony of this decision by his nervous pal Seth (Paul Dano). So when his future self (Willis) shows up, Joe is conflicted.
"Why don't you do what old men do--and DIE!"
Imagine a young Bruce Willis blurting that out to the grizzled, bald action-hero Bruce Willis we've all grown to know and adore.
"I remember what you do right after you do it," Old Joe explains to his "self-absorbed and stupid" younger self--and us.
Botching this job means Joe Present and Joe Future are on the run from both The Boss's minions and each other. Each Joe wants to stop the other Joe from "ruining my life."
Emily Blunt shows up as a rural Kansas farmer who figures into the story. Children enter into the plot. And things get a lot more complicated, to say the least--with flashbacks, alternative futures and the like.
What would Einstein say to all this? Or Doc Brown and Marty McFly?
Writer-director Rian Johnson has concocted a tale with elements of "Terminator" and "Back to the Future," as well as "Jumpers" and "The Omen."
It's a science fiction film that gives you a lot of plot to chew on and some genuine moral dilemmas--about sacrifice, guilt, heinous crimes to protect the greater good.
The whole thing bogs down on the farm, and at times, figuring out certain questions trips it up.
But "Looper" is loads of fun. And when that "Die Hard" reboot comes around, all of Hollywood has this as Joseph Gordon-Levitt's audition for John McClane.
Can he say, "Yippee ki-yi-yay?" Don't you know it.
STARRING: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels, Paul Dano
CREDITS: Written and directed by Rian Johnson. A Sony Tristar/ FilmDistrict release. Running time: 1:55.
RATED: R for strong violence, language, some sexuality/ nudity and drug content.
THEATERS: Aquia 10,