Runaway (1984) – Michael Crichton

 

My time with the Sci-Fi Chronicles book continues as I dive into Michael Crichton’s other science fiction film from the 80s, Runaway, starring Tom Selleck, Cynthia Rhodes, and Gene Simmons.

Selleck is Jack Ramsay, a cop that specializes in robots. With his partner, Thompson (Rhodes) at his side, he finds himself pulled into a murder investigation that is only the tip of the iceberg for a case that uncovers a plot by Luther (Simmons) to program robots as killers. Kirstie Alley also joins the cast as Luther’s girlfriend, Jackie.

What is very cool about this film, is how many things Crichton got right, although their appearances may not be what they are today. There are drones, driver-less vehicles, smart weapons, and household robots. Sure some of the things do more than the comparable things do today, but not all of it seems as futuristic as it did in 1984.

More of a sci-fi cop thriller, the film is enjoyable, though the climax needed to be a little more tightly paced. Simmons is in his element as the villain of the piece, and Selleck slips easily into the good-guy, single father role, looking after his son Bobby (Joey Cramer).

The plot is very predictable, but it’s Crichton’s padding out the gadget side of the film that makes for interesting viewing. He may not have a great handle on his actors, Rhodes feels like hit and miss a lot in the film, and the way she’s dressed for the climax just doesn’t feel natural, and in fact, seems to make her character stand out.

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But watching the film, as Ramsay investigates, and stops malfunctioning, or “runaway” robots, it’s easy to see why I would have thought this was so much fun, when I first saw it way back in 1984. It just plays fun, and while it takes everything seriously, I remember looking at all the cool gadgets and thinking, can you imagine.

Of course, now, most of them are common place. From the small handheld devices Bobby plays games on under the covers, to drones checking out dangerous areas, all of these things have found their ways into modern day life.

Thankfully, no one, as far as we know, is programming robots to kill humans, and getting ready to sell the plans to the highest bidder.

And while Simmons got to be delightfully evil in this film, he’s never really given the chance to go full-out homicidal genius, which I think he could have pulled off, and made for a much stronger dynamic between him and Selleck.

While not the best of the 1980s, this one still remains surprisingly entertaining, and of course, has Tom Selleck.

It also has a score by Jerry Goldsmith, and that is never bad!!

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