Time for Some Time Travel: Rian Johnson Returns with Looper

Writer/director Rian Johnson with Academy Award winner Rachel Weisz, star of Johnson's 2008 film The Brothers Bloom (photo by Adam Bielawski)

For most new directors, merely getting their first film made and distributed is a significant accomplishment in of itself. Having that debut warmly received with festival awards and critical acclaim takes that achievement up another notch, and is usually a good sign of promising talent. With the September release of his third film, Looper, writer/director Rian Johnson looks to be delivering on his early promise.

Johnson’s debut film, Brick, was a smart film-noir mystery staged in the unlikely setting of a modern-day, sun-washed California high school. Brick was nominated for Grand Jury prizes at Sundance and the Deauville Festival in 2005, and won the Sundance Special Jury award, as well as the San Francisco Film Critics Circle award for Best Original Screenplay. Johnson also went on to win the Most Promising Director award from the Chicago Film Critics Association, and Best First Film from the Austin Film Critics Association, among many other awards. Here’s the trailer:

Johnson followed up in 2008 with his second feature, The Brothers Bloom, an entertaining tale of two con artist brothers, that met with decidedly mixed reviews. Despite being loaded with two Academy Award winners (Adrien Brody and Rachel Weisz), this film was never well-distributed: at its widest release, it played on only 209 screens. After an 84-day run, The Brothers Bloom made only $3.5 million at the domestic box office… on a production budget rumored to be about $20 million. Ouch!

Still, Johnson apparently carries enough clout for another chance, and his latest looks like a winner. Looper combines mafioso action with time-travel sci-fi, and then brings in one of the big guns – Bruce Willis – to lend it even more box office cred. The trailer really sells the concept:

For some reason, the film’s distributors (TriStar) have decided that April is the perfect time to promote the crap out of this film, even though the theatrical release date is September 28… five months away! Whatever the reason, it seems to be working at generating a buzz. I know I’m ready to see it now.

In VOH terms, Johnson is definitely In the Lobby. He makes interesting films and is getting good performances from his cast. As long as he continues to write and direct genre-bending stories, there’s a good chance that we will finally come around to see his vision. However, a word of caution: if this film performs poorly at the box office, young Mr. Johnson might not get another chance to show us what he’s got.

– Posted by Late Night


  1. Mr Ridley · April 17, 2012

    Johnson’s debut, Brick, was quite special. It would be a challenge for almost any talented filmmaker to achieve its eerie mood and successfully manage such a complex storytelling style. I look forward to Looper!

  2. HakSnider33 · April 17, 2012

    I thought Brick was cool, but it relied heavily upon a gimmicky premise and felt very film schoolish. However, you can’t learn visionary style, and Johnson definitely showed abundant style so I look forward to seeing more from him.

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