Looper wants to be a Matrix for a new generation. In reality, it is nothing more than a forgettable, if engaging, sci-fi romp

Cert 15 | ***

Looper is one of those movies that keeps you engaged but then leaves you feeling slightly empty. Set in the year 2044, when the world is something of a mess, powerful criminal groups run the city and everywhere is awash with drug-taking, law breaking delinquents.

The “looper” is prince of this seedy underworld. Specialised assassins, they are generously rewarded to kill time travellers from the future, who mysteriously show up tied and hooded, with a block of silver strapped to their back. Here enters Joe, one of the most successful loopers: a selfish, vain character who finds his shallow existence compromised when his older self (Bruce Willis) is transported back in time for him to kill.

Failing to “complete the loop” and kill the older Joe, he finds his life in jeopardy from the mob, the men behind the shadowy plot who dispatch of their deadly creations as soon as they cease to be useful.

Time travel, multiple selves, and parallel fates – it all sounds a little confusing. Thankfully director Rian Johnson doesn’t dwell too heavily on the logistics of it all, instead choosing to focus on the development of the characters.

There are also no aliens or robots either to detract from the humanity of the tale, only Joseph Gordon-Levitt who is nearly unrecognisable as the young Joe. Intended to loosely emulate a young Bruce Willis, prosthetic features are added, as are odd thin black eye brows and unnaturally red lips. This, sadly, does not have the desired effect; instead it makes the attractive Gordon-Levitt into look like the victim of botched plastic surgery. Luckily, Emily Blunt and, especially, Willis shine, with the hard man taking on a darker role than we are used to.

Looper is at his best when it is at its most sinister and its characters are at their most ruthless. As a heartfelt sci-fi, it is admirable but it’s probably not one you’ll still be talking about in a year.