27 November 2014 | aforandromeda
Dated but highly enjoyable sci-fi thriller.
Set in undetermined future society where robotics are a major part of everyday life, from performing household chores to construction and more, Runaway follows Officer Jack Ramsay (Tom Selleck), head of the so-called 'Runaway Squad'. His hi-tech unit deals with out of control robots, intervening where humans may be endangered by the machines' malfunctions. When Ramsay discovers a plot by criminal genius Luther (Gene Simmons) to sell advanced microchips and cutting edge weaponry to the highest bidder, he finds himself taking on not only Luther, but also the dangerous killer's deadly robotic creations.
Written and directed by the late Michael Crichton, Runaway continues the theme of the dangers of technology affecting the lives of humans that had been previously visited in his previous works Westworld and Looker. Reviewing Runaway now, thirty years after it's original release, is a real eye opener to Crichton's foresight. Although the appearance of the technology in the movie is dated, being all microchips, clunky robots, switches and video tapes, there are things that have equivalents today. These include flying drones ('floaters'), tablet-like devices, the ease of gaining information through computer profiles of individuals, nannying by technology and the rapacious pervasiveness of the media. These features are integrated subtly and skilfully into the fabric of the film, helping Runaway maintain a surprising degree of relevance so far down the line. The movie is also notable for it's 'bullet-eye view' scenes, which were ground breaking in it's day and much imitated thereafter.
There's plenty to enjoy here as proceedings are quick and unfussy, the plot is purposeful and the action comes thick and fast, with Crichton really building up the tension and thrills during several standout scenes. Although some of the effects are a trifle creaky looking nowadays, the robotics are imaginative and well constructed. The performances are as equally enjoyable, with Selleck and Cynthia Rhodes (as Jack's partner) working well together. The underrated G.W. Bailey (of Police Academy infamy) also does a great turn as Jack's Chief and even a sizzling Kirstie Alley makes an appearance. The only letdown is from KISS legend Simmons, as although can he certainly deliver menacing looks and thousand yard stares, his overall acting ability is somewhat lacking. A much better rock star than actor, that's for sure.
While the movie is dated in parts, it's fast pace and inventiveness, along with Crichton's skillful direction helps Runaway stand up very well when viewed in the modern day. Whether revisiting or seeing it for the first time, Runaway is an oft-overlooked pulp thriller that's well worth catching.