(R) ★★★☆☆

In filmmaker Rian Johnson’s imaginative sci-fi thriller, futuristic criminals in the 2070s are sent back in time to 2044 Kansas, and there, standing at the ready with a nasty rifle called the Blunderbuss, is the “looper,” the gun for hire. Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a looper, is beginning to wear down. He knows that one day he’ll be assigned to “close his loop” and kill off the older version of himself. The day arrives, but older Joe (Bruce Willis) is ready and escapes. The chase is on, and younger Joe has a lot to learn about his fate.

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Man vs. (Future) Self

By Michael Phillips, Tribune Media Services

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 Rian Johnson, the writer-director of Looper, must feel the pressure (especially with Bruce Willis and a lot of bullets involved) to deliver the body-count payoffs in a way that satisfies genre expectations.