Once you get past the rather unlikely premise, "Looper" is an effective action drama with good character interaction between Joseph Gordon-Levitt as "Joe," the Looper of the title, and Emily Blunt as "Sara" a woman whose life becomes entangled with Joe's convoluted timeline. They are well supported by Bruce Willis, as Joe's future self, and Jeff Daniels as "Abe" the gangster from the future who runs the Loopers and his gang of "gat men," such as the hapless "Kid Blue" (Noah Segan).
Most of the story takes place in 2042. New Orleans stands in for a depressingly plausible urban dystopia, where the only people who seem to have new cars or money are the gangsters, including the Loopers. The Loopers live a hedonistic lifestyle of drugs, drinking, and women between assassinations, storing up pelf in the form of silver bars toward the day their devil's bargain with the uptime mob comes to its end. You see, not only do they kill and dispose of people that the 2072 gangsters make disappear by sending back in time, they also agree to kill their future selves when the mob has no more need for them, receiving a golden payoff they get to enjoy until the end comes, thirty years hence.
Abe and his gat men exist to enforce the Looper's contracts, sometimes in imaginative and horrifying ways. Of course, things go wrong when "Old Joe" (Willis), who's smarter and tougher than the average Looper, breaks the cycle and embarks on his own horrifying plan to preserve some of his future by changing his past--with or without the cooperation of his younger self.
Although there are significant logic holes, again, once it's running the plot is engaging and, as Georgie noted, has some actual suspense, since the time-travel elements make the ultimate outcome uncertain, and we really could not see the end coming.
I was quite amused by the flashback (flashforward?) sequence setting out Joe's metamorphosis into Old Joe. After having received his payoff, he takes Abe's advice and moves to Shanghai. After having burned through his money, he goes back to a life of crime, becoming a John Woo/Jet Li style killer. (Evidently, the mob's concern about hiding bodies doesn't apply to everyone--.) This gives him the skills and toughness to beat his uptime kidnappers and the downtime gat men at their own game.
(We almost didn't go to see this movie. The minimal local promotion consisted of print ads only showing Gordon-Levitt and Willis wielding their guns, which lead me to believe it was going to be a "Die Hard" type shootout film. People's comments on the internet made me aware that there was a science-fiction element. Of course, being a Willis vehicle, there is one obligatory huge gunfight, but it's mercifully short and relatively low on gore.)
Ultimately, it's an interesting and engaging film that doesn't stint on the dire consequences of misusing time travel, without being as hopeless as, say "Twelve Monkeys," which was about the last good time travel movie, and, ironically, also starred Bruce Willis--. Not for kids, since there's nudity, lots of foul language, and intense violence.This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/222569.html. Please comment there using OpenID.