The announcement that Bruce Willis is retiring from acting sent shockwaves around Hollywood. The megastar has been a fixture on screens for four decades, though admittedly his star wattage had dimmed lately after appearing in a series of straight-to-VOD stinkers. But his performances in those movies have been given further context now that we know he’s dealing with aphasia, a condition that affects the brain’s ability to process language.
When all’s said and done, clunkers like Cosmic Sin and Out of Death will be footnotes in his filmography and classics like Die Hard, Twelve Monkeys, and Pulp Fiction will endure. One excellent film that should join them is the 2012 science-fiction thriller Looper.
Written/directed by Knives Out and The Last Jedi‘s Rian Johnson, the titular ‘Loopers’ are contract killers hired by future criminals to kill victims sent back in time, with Bruce Willis playing an elderly assassin facing off against his younger self played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Gordon-Levitt has given an interview with Vanity Fair reflecting on his career, in which he revealed a truly touching moment with Willis:
“I had a moment of validation, there was a scene later in the movie where we were yelling at each other. I don’t know if Bruce did this on purpose or he did it unintentionally, but it was kind of the highest compliment he could pay me. It was right after they said cut, he was turning away and walking back to his mark, he didn’t even say it to me, he kind of said it to himself, ‘Sounds like me.’ I just turned to myself and was like, ‘F**kng yes!’ I think, knowing him, that was really his ultra generous way of paying me a compliment, but it was very kind to do it in that way.”
In Looper, Willis gives what will likely go down in history as one of his best late-career performances, with Gordon-Levitt very believable as a younger version of him. The movie is also notable for an incredibly disturbing time-travel torture sequence in which an old man begins to fall to pieces as his younger self is gradually dissected in the past.
Looper went on to become a sizeable hit, received positive reviews, and Rian Johnson scored several awards for his original screenplay. If you haven’t seen it, it’s absolutely worth checking out and is available to stream on Netflix.