The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, May 3-9

NYC Repertory Cinema-Looper

Looper (2012)
Directed by Rian Johnson
Pulling a successful hit job, presumably, requires emotional detachment. For loopers, in a world thirty years into the future, the detachment takes a split second—they await their prey in timely fashion, as the target is thrust into their path via the criminalized method of time travel. Loopers shoot, kill, and collect their pay. It is only when their future selves are their next task that hesitance arrives. Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a sharp-firing, lonely francophile whose sole emotional outlet is through sex worker Suzie (Piper Perabo), faces a similar quagmire when Old Joe (Bruce Willis) appears. The job slips; Old Joe hasn’t lost his bite, and knows far more what Young Joe stands to lose. He has a mission of his own: hunt and kill young Cid (Pierce Gagnon, the film’s MVP), who will grow up to destroy the heart Joe spent decades developing. That is, if he can get tough mother Sara (Emily Blunt) out of the way.

Bending genre plasticity is Rian Johnson’s strength, as is reinterpreting referential fragments into something subtle yet riveting. Slyly quoting various practitioners of sci-fi, whether outlandish—Cameron, Gilliam, Otomo—or minimal—Carruth, Godard—Looper is an intelligent, increasingly rare crowd pleaser. Nevermind the heavily criticized make-up job on Gordon-Levitt—which will award Johnson and makeup artist Kazuhiro Tsuji ridicule forevermore—the film is a triumph in creating a practical world with few digital touches; beyond the wires lurking in the telekinesis setpieces, the murky urbane Louisiana cityscapes and rural farms are so scarcely affected, they could almost be current. Also arresting is cousin Nathan Johnson’s score, culled from gun rattles, treadmills, and slowed engines. A film so adept at depicting worlds falling apart, Looper crisply pulls pieces together into an, ahem, timeless tale. Forward thinking isn’t often this heart-tugging while badass. Max Kyburz (May 6, 7, 11:30am at the Nitehawk)

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