Runaway (2004) / Sci Fi-Thriller

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence, brief nudity, and language
Running Time: 99 min.

Cast: Tom Selleck, Gene Simmons, Cynthia Rhodes, Kirstie Alley, Joey Cramer, Stan Shaw, G.W. Bailey, Chris Mulkey
Director: Michael Crichton
Screenplay: Michael Crichton

Review published August 23, 2005

Sometime in the near future, robots have become common household appliances and machines used in every facet of business.  As advanced as technology can sometimes be, that doesn't stop the occasional robot from going haywire and endangering human lives.  That's where Sgt. Jack Ramsay (Selleck, The Concrete Cowboys) comes in.  Ramsay is a cop that specializes in taking down robots gone wild, which he does with great finesse.  Ramsay seems to be keeping more busy than usual of late, as common robots have started to go berserk for no reason, and signs point to an altered chip that has begun appearing inside the worst of them.  A notorious microchip dealer named Charles Luther (Simmons, Wanted: Dead or Alive) is the man responsible, but as good as Ramsay is, Luther has a few hi-tech devices up his sleeve that haven't been seen before.

For a film written and directed by sci-fi maestro Michael Crichton (Coma, Westworld), Runaway surprisingly comes off as cheap b-movie schlock.  Perhaps the biggest mistake that Crichton makes is in taking all of the nonsense he cooks up seriously, leaving the film to suffer as a dull and joyless experience that barely entertains on any level.  The sci-fi is lackluster, the thriller elements marred by predictability, and even the robots themselves are downright laughably designed, even by 1984 standards. 

The only possible saving grace of the film comes through interesting casting.  Selleck exudes enough machismo to buy as the tough guy with the acrophobic Achilles heel.  Gene Simmons, the rocker that earned a claim to fame as the long-tongued member of the group KISS, makes his big screen debut with a memorable performance -- his face alone exudes evil.  Future Mrs. Richard Marx, Cynthia Rhodes (Dirty Dancing, Staying Alive), is also appealing as Selleck's partner on the force.  It's really a shame that they didn't have a very believable movie to put these actors in.

A few interesting ideas bubble up from beneath the standard elements to make it a relatively harmless action-oriented diversion, but really, it's hard not to be disappointed with the results.  Runaway is as mechanical and unfeeling as the killer robots themselves, and when this vehicle runs out of juice, the only place left for it to go is the scrapheap.

 Qwipster's rating:

2005 Vince Leo