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I really enjoyed the first half of “Looper,” a sci fi adventure that reminded me more than once of “Blade Runner.”  It has the same noir tone, the same attention to detail, the same smarts that make it a thrill to catch up and understand the way things work 50 years in the future.

It’s a story about a special kind of hit man, who kills and disposes of a crime syndicate’s human trash in the future — the criminals send their hits through a time machine to a particular time and place, where he is ready and waiting with a shotgun a tarp, and a nearby incinerator.  Trouble brews when he has to assassinate his future self, and fails, because he is smarter than himself.

This is all well and good, but in the second half (the two are pretty clearly delineated) “Looper” starts dropping so many hints about where it’s going and how it’s going to end, by the time you reach the end, it’s a real downer. What happened the smart movie that was daring me to keep up?  Suddenly the film is treating me like an idiot who needs big hints dropped over and over so I don’t get lost.  Well, I didn’t get lost, but I did get a little bored.

Really, “Looper” wouldn’t have been that hard to fix.  It’s not a bad twist, though it is an old, old one, dating back to Greek tragedy at least; if the director or screenwriter would just edit out all the obvious hints about where it’s going, there would be some surprise left in it, and it would’ve been a lot more fun.   As it is, it feels like a tale of two films; first, a great one that dares me to keep up, followed by a mediocre one that’s afraid I’ll get lost.

Verdict: Recommended, With Reservations  I think it’s still worth watching, and I can see why it’s making so many “Best of 2012” lists.  It’s just frustrating to see so clearly how it could’ve been so much better.

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