Director: Michael Crichton
Cast: Tom Selleck, Tom Selleck’s moustache, Gene Simmons
Review Author: Tony
Welcome to Beer Goggles, our new space where we search the dark depths of Netflix for the more bizarre and obscure films it has to offer. The concept is simple; we crack a few beers, lower our inhibitions and standards, and pick a film at random (usually the lowest titles on the Netflix list). The definition of beer goggles according to the very first explanation I found on Google is “used to refer to the supposed influence of alcohol on one’s visual perception, whereby one is attracted to people who would not otherwise be appealing”. Adam and I found ourselves very forgiving of pretty dodgy films whenever beers were involved and figured it’s the only time we are going to give these films a chance. So in the spirit of poor judgment, poor decision-making, poor perception and deep regret we’d like to introduce you to Beer Goggles where the movies are cheaper than our beers.
Our very first round is an obscure science fiction film called Runaway, released in 1984. Runaway is an adaptation of a book by Michael Crichton, about a cop who is tasked with executing malfunctioning robots. What’s interesting is that Michael Crichton also directs. Famous for writing the Jurassic Park books, the Andromeda strain, and directing the cult classic Westworld. The film stars the inventor of the moustache, Tom Selleck and for some strange reason Gene Simmons.
The reason I remember choosing this film was that it had a bitchin’ poster of Tom Selleck with a space gun (the words I used at the time) in a Velcro suit. The film pulled me in straight away with a badass synth soundtrack, composed by film legend Jerry Goldsmith. Tom’s character is called Jack Ramsay, a veteran cop that leads the Runaway squad, a division dedicated to stopping robots which are going haywire. Ramsay is the calmest guy ever; I couldn’t stop laughing at how chill he was in all the action and chase scenes, it’s like Tom Selleck really couldn’t give a fuck about this film. Regardless of this, I instantly loved the concept of Tom Selleck taking down robots going rogue or as one of my friends pointed out, Rogue-bots.
My enthusiasm quickly changed to uncontrollable laughter when we find out one of the rogue-bots has murdered two people and it’s holding a toddler hostage in a house. The scene has every 80s cop cliché from Ramsay deciding he’s going in against orders, to intrusive/dickish reporters and cameramen, it’s all there. When Ramsay enters the house, it’s actually a pretty tense scene as we haven’t seen the killer bot but we can hear it, however when the robot reveals itself, that’s when the laughing started. It’s literally a fucking toaster with a gun; just the cheapest and most non-threatening thing I’ve ever seen.
It only got more ridiculous from there as the film drops the whole Runaway concept for Gene fucking Simmons to take over as the villian. Gene does not disappoint, literally hamming it up every chance he has. Gene’s role is Luther, who’s apparently an evil genius with some dangerous microchips and wants to sell them to terrorists; also he has the space gun from the poster and a bunch of terrifying robot spiders. Simmons’ acting ranges from trying to look menacing by doing his best dead eye zombie impression to making hilarious faces. For example:
By the third act of the film, the alcohol took over, so my memory is kind of blurry. I’ll do my best to summarize the events which unfold. Kirstie Alley from, Cheers, is Luther’s Ex-lover, and she has something he needs so Ramsay takes her into custody, Luther knows somehow and pursues them, Ramsay kidnaps Kirstie (which I don’t think was even explained but then again like I said my memory is a shambles) and they make a trade which results in Kirstie’s death but Ramsay has the thingy (again I was pretty wasted by this point) that Luther wants. The final showdown happens at a construction site where Luther has Ramsay’s son and wants to make a trade because fuck it, recycling plot points extends the running time. The final showdown is hilarious, with Ramsay having the slowest and most boring fight with the robot spiders on an elevator and dealing with his fear of heights, which Tom displays by looking down and making slightly uncomfortable faces. Eventually, Ramsay overcomes his fear and brings the elevator down to Luther. They have the most awkward scuffle in which Luther is knocked off the elevator and killed by his own spiderbots.
I wanted Runaway to be an absolute cheese-fest and while it delivers in dialogue and how the 80s pictured the future; the film is pretty boring. Considering they released this the same year as The Terminator you’d think the robots would be a lot better looking. Most of them just look like old projectors on wheels. There is actually some serious talent attached to the film with a successful science fiction author and director behind the camera, a legendary composer and well-known star in the lead role, yet it all feels so cheap and destined for B movie obscurity. Unfortunately, my good friend beer couldn’t even save this one considering I mostly wondered if Tom Selleck’s eyebrows were actually just extensions of his moustache.
Rating: 2 / 5 Bud Light