I saw Rian Johnson‘s Looper (Sony, 9.28) in Los Angeles a week or so ago, and as it screened this morning in Toronto it’s okay to post my thumbnail response, which I originally tapped out on an iPhone while sitting in traffic on Venice Boulevard:

Looper is a highly imaginative sci-fi action thriller in the Phillip K. Dick mode that’s a little too enamored of its originality and imagination, I feel — certainly more than it is enamored of being propulsive or thrilling. I realize that Johnson reads this column from time to time and that he’ll be pissed when he realizes I feel more in the way of muted respect than genuine admiration, but them’s the breaks.

The biggest disappointment, for me, is that the great haunting concept of an older guy (Bruce Willis) being able to give counsel to his younger, stupider, less wise self (Joseph Gordon Levitt) has been almost completely ignored, and that’s really a shame.

And Levitt’s made-up, CG-fortified Willis face is weirdly unformed and gets in the way of any potential investment. We all know what Willis looked like when he was costarring in Moonlighting and their faces, his and Levitt’s, just don’t match or seem even vaguely from the same family or country, even. The effect doesn’t work. Johnson should have cast Willis in both roles and CG’ed and de-aged him for his younger-self scenes.

Boil Looper down and it’s just another violent whammy-chart actioner, albeit with a novel time-travel premise. The whammy chart thing is oppressive. It really feels as if someone shoots something or someone every seven or eight minutes, and that this is happening because the software insists.

“Too many gunshots” is a malady…hell, a form of cancer afflicting modern action films. It’s also a bellwether. The more gunshots, the worse a movie tends to be. And fewer gunshots almost always tends to mean quality. Examples: The Limey, Shane.

The effing Wiki plot gives you a headache: “In a futuristic gangland in the year 2044, a 25-year-old killer named Joseph Simmons (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) works for a mafia company in Kansas City as a ‘looper.’ Loopers kill and dispose of agents sent by their employers from corporate headquarters in Shanghai from the year 2074″…what? “Loopers are foot soldiers, paid on the terms that all targets must never escape. When Simmons recognizes his target as a future version of himself (Bruce Willis), his older self escapes after incapacitating him. The resulting failure of his job causes his employers to come after him, forcing him to fight for his life as he hunts his younger self.

Tweeted by Johnson an hour ago: “I am the opposite of pissed. This is the perfect Jeff Wells reaction, and when I see you I am going to kiss you on the mouth.”