Runaway (1984) Directed by Michael Crichton. With Tom Selleck, Cynthia Rhodes and Gene Simmons.
Starring Tom Selleck, Runaway is a science fiction thriller, written and directed by Michael Crichton, who despite early success as a director with cult classics like Westworld and Coma, is perhaps best known to the world as the successful author of Jurassic Park. The story is a simple one, in-keeping with Crichton’s cautionary stance on investing too much faith in technology and science. Set in a near 1984 future, a time when every home has its own robot helper, Selleck plays a cop on the chase of a renegade nutjob (Gene Simmons) responsible for turning household technology into killing machines.
Seen in 2015, it’s a hard heart that doesn’t at least see the charm in this old vision of the future. Selleck was at the height of his Magnum P.I popularity, and despite his character being a whole lot more angsty here (he says fuck), he carries a certain level of charisma that makes him a watch-able lead in more or less anything.
Making his big screen debut, KISS frontman Gene Simmons is perhaps one of the more natural rock-star to movie actor transitions – bear in mind I saw Mick Jagger in Freejack only a few weeks ago. Perhaps it has more to do with Simmons being caked in 50 layers of make-up, for his day job, lending him a familiarity, yet a degree of freshness for appearing in films. Either way, he’s cartoonishly menacing, which is a good fit for the piece.
Disappointingly from Crichton, the plot is far too formulaic to make any lasting impression. In that sense, it feels underdeveloped, placing far too much emphasis on its now dated central robotic gimmicks.
While time has caught up with it, Crichton’s direction is solid and the performances are fine. Of course, the robots are clumsy, but it’s often a certain amount of fun, given the right mood. I’m struggling to call Runaway a success. 1984 was the year of The Terminator, a film that made a much stronger, lasting statement about the dark side of technology. Runaway is more along the lines of a film that aimed to tell you that your Speak & Spell might one day kill you. 2.5/5