Runaway movie poster
|Directed by||Michael Crichton|
|Produced by||Michael I. Rachmil
Lisa Faversham (associate producer)
Kurt Villadsen (executive producer)
|Written by||Michael Crichton|
G. W. Bailey
|Music by||Jerry Goldsmith|
|Cinematography||John A. Alonzo|
|Editing by||James Coblentz|
|Distributed by||TriStar Pictures|
|Release date(s)||December 14, 1984|
|Running time||99 min.|
Runaway is a 1984 science fiction action film starring Tom Selleck, Gene Simmons and Cynthia Rhodes. This film also features Kirstie Alley in one of her early appearances. The film was written and directed by Michael Crichton. The original music score was composed by Jerry Goldsmith, and was the composer's first all-electronic soundtrack. The film was marketed with the tagline "It is the future. Machines intended to do our work are programmed to turn against us. Someone must stop the madman who started it all."
With a multi-million dollar budget, big-name actors and a world-famous author as both writer and director, Runaway was planned as 1984's major science fiction draw. However, it was overshadowed by a low-budget feature, starring b-list actors, and written and directed by an unknown – James Cameron's unprecedented blockbuster, The Terminator.
Typically for a Crichton work, this movie deals with the devastating and sinister consequences of taking complex technology for granted. Runaway is set in the near future, where robots are commonplace – as much a part of everyday life as any other electrical appliance. Like said appliances, they are prone to malfunctions, especially since such devices rarely receive regular maintenance. Unlike said appliances, a robot may malfunction in a manner that poses some form of threat to people and/or property, an occurrence about as common as burglaries. Such robots are known as "runaways".
As runaways are somewhat more dangerous than the average damaged machine, they are not handled by the manufacturers' support personnel but by local divisions of the police force trained in robotics. Though the job is necessary – runaways can be relatively destructive to both people and property – this seemingly low-key form of police work rarely involves real risks to either officers or civilians and thus rarely draws public attention – and therefore has few opportunities for promotion. Most officers consider the runaway squad to be worse than desk work. At least behind a desk one doesn't have to chase broken machines while people laugh at you.
Sgt. Jack R. Ramsay (Selleck) is a veteran police officer who left street patrol in favor of handling runaway robots after discovering his previously unknown acrophobia, and after years on the job has found himself one of the profession's few real experts. His new partner, Karen Thompson (Rhodes), is bright and enthusiastic about the job, but he assures her there is little excitement involved – "Usually all you have to do is flip a switch." This assurance turns out to be in error when they find themselves the only people capable of handling an unforeseen social problem – the first robot facilitated homicides.
In the aftermath of dealing with a particularly disturbing runaway – a household robot murdering a family with a kitchen knife – he stumbles upon integrated circuits which not only override a robot's safety features, but direct it to attack humans. Worse, these devices are not jury-rigged hacks, but created from a series of master templates, enabling them to be mass-produced.
Further investigations into the circuits are hindered by their true use: the control systems of the first robotic weapons. Spider-like robots no larger than loaves of bread which climb walls and ceilings to reach their targets, murder them by injecting acid into their veins, then explosively self-destruct, leaving no evidence. On top of that, other potential sources of information die in an equally bizarre manner – shot in the back from what seems to be impossible ranges.
However, Ramsay refuses to be deterred, and soon discovers the perpetrator, megalomaniacal and sociopathic genius Dr. Charles Luther (Simmons). Luther, while working for a robotics defense contractor, developed a program that allows a robot to thermographically identify a human form amidst significant cover, and even differentiate between individual humans. Seeing the obvious profit potential in this program, he decided to kill his fellow researchers and sell the technology on the black market.
However, the attempted arrest fails miserably as Luther reveals another of his uses of the program: smart bullets. Miniature heat seeking missiles that lock onto an individual human target's unique heat signature, pursuing them wherever they run – even around corners.
An unexpected break is made in the case – one of Luther's fellow employees, Jackie Rogers (Alley), is found to have once been his lover – and partner in crime. However, she double-crossed him and stole the circuit templates, intending to sell them herself. But Luther knows she has them, and is willing to go to extremes to get them back.
A transfer to protected custody is just another opportunity for the robotics genius to demonstrate his incredible capabilities. Luther attacks the police convoy with freeway-running robotic smart bombs.
Even Ramsay's home is not safe from Luther – his personal robot is compromised, enabling the maniac to kidnap his son, Bobby (Cramer).
Ramsay then makes a deal with Luther to exchange the templates for his son at an unfinished skyscraper. Though the acrophobic Ramsay seems completely outgunned and outmaneuvered by Luther, he has one advantage – Luther is completely assured of the power of his robotic weapons, but Ramsay deals with runaways: he knows any system can fail. Ramsay is thus able to trick Luther into becoming the target of his robotic spider assassins, and Luther is killed by his own creations.
The film received mixed reviews. It has received a 47% on Rotten Tomatoes.