Saturday, July 16, 2011

Shitty Movie Review - "Runaway"

One has to wonder where Tom Selleck would be had he gotten to play the role of Indiana Jones in "Raiders of the Lost Ark." He was already a successful TV star with "Magnum, P.I." Did he ever really envision himself as Mr. Baseball? Or Quigley down under? Or Sgt. Jack Ramsay in the Michael Crichton's "Runaway?" No, surely he could not have foreseen himself as Sgt. Jack Ramsay, fighting copy machines, spider-bots, and a make-up-less Gene Simmons. But then again life has strange plans for us all.

"Runaway" is not a typical shitty movie—no, it is a thinking man's shitty movie. You don't have the usual abundance of poor direction, bad writing, or terrible acting—well, maybe the bad acting. But what you do have is an abundance of robots, and we can all agree that robots, no matter how cool they might seem in the beginning, ultimately suck. And these aren't even the OP robots like Chip or Vicki, or the hip robots like Johnny 5 or R.O.B. These are Michael Crichton's gritty, realistic 80's robots, the ones shaped like boxes and ... other boxes, with one, maaaybe two claw hands. Because Michael Crichton is all about the realizable future, wherein robots, the most effective and helpful ones, are basically mobile boxes with claws. And batshit crazy and destined to take over the world. That's where Tom Selleck comes in. He plays Sgt. Jack Ramsay, a good cop with one flaw—he's afraid of heights. But you know one thing he's not afraid of? Robots. That's why he's in the police runaway division, nobly chasing rogue robots.

Here's a sampling of some the many robots prominently featured in the film:
table robot
lamp lowering robot
farming robot
floater robot
stacking robot
housewife/telephone/receiver/stereo/jukebox/cook robot
security robot
sniffing robot
driving robot
exploding robot
spider robot

In Michael Crichton's future, robots have advanced to the point where most of them can do one thing, and can do it so well that that's their name. The lone exception is L.O.I.S. (I'm going to assume her name was an acronym since it was the 80's), Ramsay's home robot who apparently can do almost everything except hold a decent conversation. And yet she is amazingly a better actor than the one who played Ramsay's child.

Michael Crichton paints a grim future. I, for one, do not want to live in a world with signs such as the ones below posted around construction sites:


First, I guess animals or plants aren't allowed in the robot and human work area. Second, why would you not equip construction robots with human sensors? If you can make them mobile and arm them with heavy machinery, why would you not give them sensors to detect humans, especially if they're going to be in close proximity? And third, does it even need mention that you should proceed with caution? I mean these are robots we're talking about. Despite all these signs, the construction workers seemed pretty nonchalant about the rogue robot chucking sandbags off the top of the building.

Aside from the robots, the main antagonist is none other than Gene f'ing Simmons of Kiss. Yeah, I hate his guts because of multiple personal run-ins, but that's besides the point. He's a dick. And in this movie, he coincidentally also plays a dick, and an evil one at that. You want a surprise? He's also a shitty actor. Oops, guess I gave that one away. Anyway, he has scientists build chips to reprogram robots to kill humans, as if they wouldn't have done that on their own. And he also uses the chips to control the missile guidance system of his tracking missile gun, the same gun you see Tom Selleck holding on the poster even though he never uses it in the movie. The rounds, or smart missiles, may be heat-seaking, highly-maneuverable, and explosive, but they're also only a tad bit faster than a running human. If only that one scientist had zigged instead of zagged.

And how does Tom Selleck fare through all this? He's Tom Selleck dammit, the man with the stache so powerful that women swoon. At one point he knocks a bunch of monitors onto the floor and beats a robot to death with a chair, WWF-style. He orders sushi from a neon sign. He gets called a wienerhead and doesn't even blink. He does the splits between two moving cars. He gets shot in the face with acid and goes out to dinner with the girl. And he gets her to cook. Tom Selleck, no matter what, will be fine. This movie only reinforces that. So what if he didn't get to be Indiana Jones? Did I just watch "Runaway" starring Harrison Ford? No, that's Tom Selleck dammit. Long live the stache.

My shitty movie review: 8 turds out of 10. This movie, while shitty, is simultaneously genuinely though-provoking and entertaining. I've never seen erector sets put to such good use. Plus it's got a young Kirstie Alley and she actually kind of looks good here. Still bitchy, but attractive.

1 comment:

  1. Well for my, the problem lies twofold. Particularly in Hollywood's relationship with material like this at the time, and with Crichton, who's bizarre viewpoints changed into reactionary drivel come the 80s. So what we have here is a goofy mess punctuated by well..more goofy stuff.

    Happy to see you back on the beat, sir. :)