Trailer Terrors: Runaway (1984)

Machines are being programmed to turn against us. Someone must stop the madman who started it all.

Despite a really cool concept that takes a far less literal spin on the work of Philip K. Dick (considered by many as the godfather of all modern sci-fi stories), Runaway (1984) has a decent storyline that unfortunately manages to fizzle out before its final act reaches its foregone conclusion. Written and directed by Michael Crichton (Westworld, The 13th Warrior) the film stars Tom Selleck as the dense, yet compassionate Sgt. Jack R. Ramsay opposite of Cynthia Rhodes as his hot and headstrong new partner, Officer Karen Thompson.

Stan Shaw (Monster Squad) and G.W. Bailey (Police Academy) also play supporting roles, but the real surprise is Gene Simmons as the sinister Dr. Charles Luther. As Luther, Simmons comes across as both cold and calculating villain who takes in each kill with a sly grin and satisfaction worthy of a surgeon whose just beaten death. It's all the more bittersweet then that he ultimately meets a demise unworthy of his character's potential, one that is both flavorless and bloodless despite the anticipation of an epic body melt.

Backing up a bit, the film's plot revolves around the concept of "runaways" which are robots that have malfunctioned. Apparently, for a brief period in the mid-80s, household robotics were commonplace and due to their propensity for breaking down a special unit of the police was commissioned to handle them. Using a series of these incidents to introduce us to the main cast and their flaws (namely Ramsay's fear of heights), the action is pretty intense and moves the movie along at a good pace until about halfway through. It's at this point that Ramsay's annoying son rears his head in addition to an awkward sense of male chauvinism.

Though the former is easily dismissible, I found Ramsay's lack of tact in regards to his partner, Karen, to radically out of place for a hero. This is perhaps most evident at the end of the film when he unintentionally quips to Karen if she can cook before the two lock lips for a 5 minute credit roll and presumably doing the four-legged horizontal mambo. Likewise, the "climatic" battle between Ramsay and Luther is less about the two of them and more about Ramsay conquering his fear of heights. Stuck several stories high on a freight elevator, Ramsay must climb underneath to press the reset button while battling acid-spewing robot spiders (not nearly as fun as it sounds). Who the hell puts a reset button on the bottom of an elevator?!

All complaints, including Selleck's neatly trimmed 'stache, aside Runaway is at best a guilty pleasure for nothing less than seeing Gene Simmons acting. At worst, its an excuse to see kamikaze spider robots blowing people up, flying "smart bullets," and Kirstie Alley getting stabbed through the back of the skull by Gene Simmons.


  1. Jeff Allard said...:

    I love Runaway! As you say, it's not all that it could've been but thanks to Gene Simmons giving it his all as Luther, the presence of the adorable Cynthia Rhodes (who had a too-brief movie career) and those robot spiders, I mantain a stubborn soft spot for it. None of my fondness for Runaway has anything to do with Tom Selleck, by the way. Thanks for mentioning what an ass his character is. I always found Selleck to be an intolerable jerk in this movie - it's a performance that's kind of baffling as I have to wonder if anyone involved with the film had any clue how Selleck was coming across. He's smug, inconsiderate and just an all-around prick. With performances like this, it's no wonder he never took off as a movie star.

  1. Strange Kid said...:

    I'm glad it wasn't just me in regards to Selleck's performance. I think I rooted for Simmon's since at least his character was supposed to be evil.

    I really have fellow club member @LaDracul to thank for bringing this flick to my attention awhile back. It's definitely something I'd watch on a lazy Sunday afternoon, typical "WGA Movie Matinee" type fodder.

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