Welcome to another Movie and TV Mistress review of a cult classic.
This time I'm looking at Runaway a 1984 film staring Tom Selleck and Gene Simmons, yes that’s Magnum PI Vs. the Demon from KISS.
I saw this film as a child and was terrified of the acid spiting robotic spiders in the film (yeah you read that right), for years I didn't know what this was called, I figured it had to have robotic spiders in the title; well I found out the actual title was Runaway, which refers to robots that malfunction, they are called Runaways by the specialized police department that deal with them. If you watch Community you will have heard of this movie in the episode where the gang watch Kick Puncher as they planed to watch this and they mention the deadly killer spider robots.
The film is written and directed by Michael Crichton, he is a great writer of sci fi and many of the films he wrote are classics, some are even being remade. As a director he has made cult classics such as Westworld and Coma nothing as successful as Jurassic Park though.
The film opens with the required 80's computer/robotic music over the opening credits, I swear I've heard this music at the start of another 80's sci fi film.
During the credits we see footage of Tom Selleck working on 80's computers and circuit boards with his stereo typical black partner called Marvin who I guess is retiring and Tom has a new partner and its a girl who's moving from traffic to computers and robots; yeah cause that’s an obvious move in the force I'm sure they do that all the time, you know a traffic warden just moves to autopsy when they request it.
Anyway they go on a mission to get a runaway agriculture robot on a farm and we find out Tom is afraid of heights, He seemed OK in Magnum PI and Three Men and a Baby. well the girl runs of picks up the robot and gets an electric shock, that'll teach her to be a stupid blond women in a Sci Fi movie. They shoot the robot and the girl gets covered in dirt from the explosion and the farmers complain that they could have done that themselves.
New partner asks Marvin why Jack (Tom) left the regular force and we get a story about having a criminal get away cause Jack couldn't chase him up a building you know the type of story that foreshadows events that will take place in the third act. Marvin asks the girl why she's a cop and she says she wanted to be a dancer but hurt her knee then a programmer but hated sitting all day then a nurse and then Police academy wow indecisive or what, make your mind up.
All of a sudden we get the first glimpse of the scary side of robots, a robot has killed two people and a baby is in the house and the robot might kill it next, they send in a flying camera they call a floater it is shot down by the runaway robot, so Jack goes in to the house in a special suit and we have our first image of the evil looking Gene Simmons who looks very tanned.
Jack gets into the house and the press follow even though he's told them to stop filming and the home owner has said the same thing, yes the press never change; the robot shoots the camera guy, it doesn’t like the media either. The robot shoots 3 more times very close to Jacks head and then Jack shoots it with his laser and turns it off and saves the baby.
Jack goes home with his partner and the Navigator from Flight of the Navigator is his son, oh boy he is so more annoying then he was in that film, also they have a family robot, which looks like an 80's stereo on wheels. Bobby (the Navigator) is very curious about what his dad saw and if his dad's partner could be his new mum and if Lois the family robot could go crazy.
They examine the robot that went nuts and there is a non standard micro chip that explodes like mission impossible instructions and Lt. Thaddeus Harris from Police Academy laughs and calls them idiots. Jack and his partner get called out to another runaway and this one is on a building site time for Tom to deal with his fear of heights, or not cause his partner can do it, besides she's work construction at some point. and yes a woman can flick a switch and turn a robot off, who knew.
They go back to the crime scene from the night before checking evidence and watch the door recorder, basically a camera answering machine for your front door. Well wouldn't you know it Gene Simmons is the third caller (it's always the third caller or message on machines that’s important in movies.) and he claims to work for Acme Robot repairs (enter your own Looney Tune joke here), the rest of the message has been erased; for a master criminal you'd think he could erase the whole tape, it would only take a magnet as they are classic VHS tapes, I’m just saying.
Well now they know who the bad guy is, meanwhile we see him examining the chips, and we hear his name is Dr Luther and he is buying the non standard chips from the friend of Mr Johnson the guy whose robot attacked his family and well Dr Luther disappears and the guy opens a case of money to find it's just news paper and we get the first of many acid spitting robot spiders that haunted my nightmares as a child. and he is killed the robot also explodes after it kills him setting him on fire. Mr Johnson see this and runs off.
Jack and his partner are looking for Mr Johnson and find him right away in the next scene at a hotel after a guy at a hot dog stand tells then, as they walk away Dr Luther walks up to the stand, Mr Johnson is not good at going off grid. Now my next reference will be from a Michael J Fox movie, Mr Johnson runs off and Dr Luther pulls out "A star Wars looking gun" and fires it form about two blocks away the bullets are heat seeking missile and Jack is chased around by a POV of the bullet like a certain Ash character in the woods, it then remembers it is actually after Mr Johnson and finds him climbing a ladder and hits him.
The next scene has the funniest robot in the film a hoover/Vacuum that is acting as a sniffing dog on the bullet. They head to Mr Johnson's work Vectrocom, where Indiana's friend and Short Round's dad is a security guard who helps then access Mr Johnson's staff files, but before we can find out anything of importance there is a runaway in the building and Kirstie Alley is being shocked by a security robot. Jack goes in with out safety gear because Kirstie is attractive, he says it and his partner says he's in love. He smashes the robot to bits to show how manly he is in front of Kirstie who has all the other micro chips and she spills her guts very quickly to him about Dr Luther and where he is.
The cops are staking out his hotel room and Jack goes in when Luther's girl is asking about her purse, this is when you know a guy directed this scene. Because women do not wrap a towel around their waists, I know this was just so he could have the 80's gratuitous tit shot but please stop it we don't do that, like we don't pillow fight in our lacy bra and panties.
I don't know how Gene does it but he makes a floater come down from the ceiling and gas everybody grabs his gun and a hooker and escapes, does he have mind control of all robots because of the chips or something? Blond cop is shot and we have some vertigo style shots when Jack looks down the stairs of the tall hotel. The bullet in the blond cops arm is unexploded and needs to be removed and Jack doesn't trust any robot to do it without blowing her arm off, so he does it himself, what follows reminds me of a level on Trauma Centre on the Wii. He gets it out and she is safe he then invites her to his for dinner and you know she is expecting something more then what he is offering. Bobby tells his dad off for swearing on TV and they have a giggle.
Marvin cuts open and examines the bullet and discover it is a heat seeking missile and they explain the reason it only goes after certain people is because we all have different heat signatures, OK lets say it does, but if your running, surly your heat pattern would change, wouldn't it. next Jack has a psychic look at the bullet and she says that Luther and Jack are brothers in a different life and that they will meet very soon. Luther calls Jack and can see everything he is doing and say he will not be able to trace the call because he is calling from a mobile phone. Oh the days when cops couldn't trace them and you had to carry a car battery to power the mobile phone, yes it was so mobile you couldn't even put in in a bag or hang it on your belt.
Luther wants his girl, Kirstie and they need to move her but first they debug her which means she has to strip. so they drive off in two police cars and Luther has some goons follow them who have a car which they can open the bottom of and drop a remote control car bomb and Jacks partner uses the laser on top of her car to shoot them but there are too many of them, but they survive when they throw out Kirsties purse. Jack goes to meet Luther in person, Jack has his girl and Luther has his partner so they have to do a trade then Luther stabs Kirstie in the back and fires his crazy gun at Jack so he can escape.
Jack was able to plant a bug in the Templates of the micro chips that Luthor got, but he's to smart for that and its time for another robot kill, yes the scary robot spider crawls up the wall and drops on the cop stabs her and blows up killing 2 cops. Luthor dressed as a cop and with a glass eyeball checks Jack's profile and finds out about his son.
Yes it's time for the classic third act, bad guy holds loved one hostage and Jack goes after him alone. It's finally time for Jack to face his fear of heights and save his son, Jack and Luther confront each other at the top of construction site and Jack promises to give the rest of the templates to Luther once his son is safely to the ground, once Bobby is on the lift heading down Luther says his spider robots will kill the first person out of the elevator, and it can't be stopped just as it arrives on the ground Jacks partner arrives and saves Bobby. Luther shoots at Jack who ends up in a lift that won't go down, instead it goes right to the top.
The elevator is broke and needs to be reset from underneath but those damn spider robots start attacking Jack and spraying acid at him he climbs out side the open elevator and knocks one spider robot off which explodes the other one stabs his hand and he falls, luckily he grabs the bottom of the lift resets it and now it's going down but he needs to get into the lift before it reaches the bottom. As he goes down it stops at the floor with Luther and they fight in the elevator, Jack kicks him off before they reach the bottom and the spider robots attack and kill him.
Everybody is safe Jack checks Luther's body who gives us the classic jump scare and then the spiders explode. Jacks partner invites him to dinner and they kiss which seemed unnecessary but hay it's a boy and girl and there needs to be sexual tension, he credits roll over them kissing under the sparks of the construction site next to a dead body. All I’m thinking is your son was kidnapped, you might want to check on him and leave the crime scene just a thought.
I have to give it to Michael Crichton at least when dealing with the future he makes it seem like an extension of current technology and not make it unbelievable, every thing in the film though obviously 80's was actually possible, some robots seemed like 80's versions of ones you might have seen in 50's movies. Gene Simmons is good as the Bad guy Over the top like all bad guys should be, it makes them more fun. Tom Selleck is his usual subdued self but it works he is a single father who deals with robots, why wouldn't he quite and shy. I've seen this movie many times since I was a kid and those spider robots still scare me and the jump scare at the end by Gene still works and I jump every time.
The film feels a bit like a John Badham or Lethal Weapon type story with Sci Fi elements it follows the same arc of the buddy cop movie, however, it being from Michael Crichton I feel like there was something more like this was a novel and a lot of the villains story was removed, like why did he have the chips made and what were they for, this is mentioned in passing but not really explored, apart from that this is a fun film with some funny dated robotics. I say check it out and if your not scared of the killer spiders, I wonder what does scare you.