Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Movie B Bad #8: Runaway (1984)

I saw the film at a Bristol Bad Film Club screening as a killer robot double bill with the fantastic Chopping Mall (1986). Check out their website and facebook.

Runaway is a 1984 sci-fi thriller. Directed by Michael Crichton (Westworld) and starring Tom Selleck (3 Men and a Baby), Gene Simmons (Never Too Young to Die, Wanted: Dead or Alive) and Cynthia Rhodes (Flashdance). This marks the feature film debut of Simmons who landed the role after meeting Michael Crichton.

The film follows Selleck's washed up cop Jack Ramsay, a police officer now confined to the robot malfunctions squad after bottling it in his previous division due to suffering from Vertigo (hmm sounds familiar). Titled the "runaway squad" the team are tasked with neutralising the rogue robots that society has now come to depend upon. Joined by new recruit Thompson (Rhodes) they uncover a plot by evil tycoon Dr Luther (Simmons), doctor of what I'm not sure, who has been installing the robots with black market chips turning them into deadly killing machines. The duo have to navigate various robotic creations in order to take down Luther and stop the robots from taking over the world!

Runaway is like a really unsophisticated version of Blade Runner (1982), but instead of fighting robots disguised as humans, our protagonists have to face what I can only describe as an army of VHS players, midi hi-fis and mechano spiders that poke you in the chin with a needle. It's also one of the least futuristic films I've seen, making for an extremely dated and hilarious vision of the future. Tom Selleck is a deeply adequate lead, although his moustache turns in a far more convincing performance, but most of the comedy gold comes from Simmons who chews the scenery and says far more with a creepy stare than he ever could with words.

Perhaps the fact that Crichton wrote this directly for the screen, rather than adapting from a novel, explains why the plot is pretty thin and it doesn't really say anything that hasn't already been said a hundred times ie. don't rely on technology too much. The heat seeking mini missiles were a nice touch and the pov sequence where Ramsay is being chased down by one of them was particularly naff, somehow moving very quickly and very slowly at the same time. This also leads to a fantastic sequence where Ramsay insists on removing a highly explosive bullet from Thompson's arm as a robot would only make a hash of it.

An incredibly 80s vision of the future and stark warning against reliance on technology that would be kind of overshadowed by another 1984 film known as The Terminator. The film is delightfully daft and the fact that Selleck never really took off as a big action star is perhaps down to this movie. However, for Simmons, this would be the launching pad to play several more gurning villains as the 80s wore on. Keep your eyes peeled for an early appearance from bombshell Kirsty Allie too.

*** 3 Stars

Have you seen Runaway? What's your favourite killer robot film?


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