In 2070 or thereabouts, it's terribly difficult to dispose of a body because everyone's tagged with some sort of electronic chip. Like what people do with their cats and dogs, I guess. So when a crime lord wants someone to disappear, there's a whole extra level of difficulty involved. Enter the miracle of time travel. I was curious to discover if it was invented specifically to solve this problem, but they don't say.

It's a simple enough system, if utterly ruthless. The victim is bound, gagged, and has a bag placed over his head before being sent back to a specific spot in space and time, roughly thirty years into the past. By prearrangement, a specialized assassin called a Looper is there, ready and waiting, to shoot said helpless victim the instant he appears. I'm not sure how they manage the prearrangement, exactly -- there doesn't seem to be any kind of a time telephone that lets them communicate, but somehow people in the past seem to know what's up in the future, at least as far as sending people back.

Anyway, Joe, conveniently played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt of Premium Rush, who I think often goes by Joe in real life, is a Looper. They get paid a lot, because face it, it's a terrible job and you'd have to pay well to get anyone to do it. The name comes from the idea of closing the loop, which in this case refers to the day when a Looper ends up shooting his own, thirty-years-into-the-future self. There's an extra big payday in it, but somehow I'm thinking that isn't a lot of consolation. The whole setup does help explain the fact that most of the Loopers seem to be, erm, under the influence much of the time, unless they're working, and it isn't exactly a time-consuming job.

Thirty years into his personal future, Joseph Gordon-Levitt turns into Bruce Willis (Cold Light of Day). Hey, there are a lot worse actors he could have turned into. But the Bruce being the Bruce, he isn't about to go along with this whole thing peacefully. The simple, ruthless system is suddenly broken.

Having already seen something of what happened when his friend Seth (Paul Dano of Cowboys & Aliens) tried to game the system, both Joes have to go on the run in a hurry. The guy they're running from is Abe, played by Jeff Daniels, who was in The Lookout with Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Abe gave Joe his start -- put the gun in his hand, as he puts it. This doesn't seem like something to be proud of, exactly, but Abe is. He's from the future and thinks ties are ridiculous. He also mentions that too much thinking about this time travel stuff will fry your brain like an egg. Time travel will be outlawed in the future, perhaps to spare some brain cells that might otherwise end up cooked.

Also in the future is a particularly scary sort of crime boss nicknamed The Rainmaker. I'm not at all sure why. It seems an odd sort of nickname for a crime boss, which the Rainmaker apparently is, but then, who's going to argue with the scary and important criminal? Joe-of-the-future's plan is to stop the whole Rainmaker debacle before it happens, because the future is heavily influenced by the Terminator series.

Younger Joe, meanwhile, is on the run and going through withdrawals when he ends up on a farm belonging to Emily Blunt of Adjustment Bureau. She lives there with a little boy, Cid, played by Pierce Gagnon of One Tree Hill, who may or may not be her son but is definitely a scary kid. Remember the fearless little girl from Don't Be Afraid of the Dark? This kid could be her younger, scarier brother.

The rest is pretty confusing, so be prepared to pay attention. The future changes pretty quickly while people are dying in various hideous ways. It is an action movie, no doubt of that, but it also messes with your mind in something of the same way that Memento does. It isn't as mind-blowing as Inception, at least. But it's one of those in-between sort of films that people might miss because they think it's just an action movie when they're in the mood for something more thought-provoking, or vice versa.

It's a good movie, though, whatever genre you decide it is. Four out of five. The scenes with Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (he wears a prosthetic nose to help him look more like a younger Willis) are great, though it's a little strange to realize that each is trying to outmacho himself. I guess that's another good reason to outlaw that pesky time travel.

Bruce WIllis holds himself hostage. Er, holds Joseph Gordon-Levitt hostage.


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