Runaway (1984)

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Runaway (1984)

Post  BoG on Tue Oct 14, 2014 10:35 pm

The title refers to runaway robots. Selleck plays a cop in the near-future whose specialty is apprehending or destroying these malfunctioning machines. Such problem robots are a nuisance more than anything and Selleck's job is considered lightweight. He acquires a new partner (Cynthia Rhodes) as the film begins and they're off after one of these little machines in a cornfield.  The robots in this one do not seem very advanced - not compared to present-day technology but to the robots we're all accustomed to seeing in most films. In most films, robots mimic the human form or have very convoluted shapes. The robots we see here are mostly just moving boxes; it's all quite quaint and charming.  It's only later in the story, when Selleck has  to deal with robots that have been purposely compromised, that we see the slightly more complex sort of robot, resembling metallic spiders.

This was written & directed by Michael Crichton, who began his directing career with Westworld (73). As we know, the robots in that one were much more advanced, resembling the humans they were meant to mimic.  Here, Crichton either takes a step back or presents a story about robots that is more grounded in reality. These are robots that actually exist in our present-day world, performing menial tasks like sorting. However, some citizens - such as Selleck himself - do have robots in the home which seem to possess rudimentary a.i.; they can have actual conversations even though they look like moving counters or tables. There are no other indications that this takes place in some future time - everything looks like 1984, though the police cars look a little spiffed up.
The villain is an evil computer genius (Gene Simmons of the rock group KISS)  who is after some valuable chips and has begun to eliminate his confederates (including a very frightened Chris Mulkey). Besides the robot spiders, he also employs a gun which fires bullets that function like heat-seeking guided missiles, turning corners to hit their target; these travel only slightly faster than a running man, though.   His paramour is played by Kirstie Alley (she did this film instead of continuing in her Saavik role for Star Trek III). Simmons is well-suited for a movie villain - he looks very sinister - but he was also inexperienced as a film actor and made a very two-dimensional villain. The film itself lacks verve and is halfhearted; when the first killing by a robot happens, it's supposed to be unprecedented, but Selleck and the others behave like it happens a few times a year. BoG's Score: 6.5 out of 10
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