Streaming Review: Runaway (1984)

In the film Runaway, it’s the near future, and people rely on robots for a lot of things, but sometimes robots go haywire and run away. It’s the job of Jack Ramsay (Tom Selleck) to fix it. However, when robots start to kill by program, it’s up to Ramsay and his partner to stop them,

The acting in this film is decent enough, with Tom Selleck turning in an expected good performance as the action hero. Kristie Alley gives the best performance in the film as the villain’s girlfriend, which netted her a nomination for a Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress. The villain is played by none other than Gene Simmons of KISS. The film is also the movie debut of child star Joey Cramer (best known to a certain generation of 80s kids for his lead role in Flight of the Navigator.)

However, where the film really shines is on a technical level. The practical effects used to bring the robots and chase scenes to life are really impressive for the time, making for some superb action scenes and a superficially good visual feel.

The film’s weakness is really its writing. When you strip away the robots and all the cool visuals, what writer/director Michael Crighton has produced is a very standard 1980s cop film. Our hero is a cop traumatized by the death of his partner and has emotional baggage from that, which can only be overcome by engaging in copious amounts of violence, during which his new female partner falls in love with him because they’re the leads. No word on whether his partner was only three days from retirement, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that were so.

In addition. while the robots are well-designed, it feels like very little thought was given to the world they inhabit. The ready availability of skilled robots at the level of this film would have major implications for society and would literally change the world. You wouldn’t expect a film (particularly Runaway) to go into some discussion of all the ethical and social implications, but you’d expect the writer to have thought through what those would be and to shape his world accordingly. Yet, the world of Runaway is very much “The Eighties but if everyone had robots.” Given the pioneering science fiction films of the era, such as Blade Runner, Terminator, 2010: The Year We Make Contact, and the Star Trek films, it’s easy to see that this was forgotten.

It is by no means a bad film for what it is. If you think a typical 1980s cop film starring Tom Selleck and robots sounds fun, I don’t think this will disappoint. But despite its strength of cast, director and effects, it’s an ultimately disposable and forgettable film.

Rating 2:5 out of 5

As of this writing, Runaway is available for free viewing on Amazon Prime.

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