Title: Freejack (1992)
Director: Geoff Murphy
Cast: Emilio Estevez, Rene Russo, Mick Jagger, Anthony Hopkins, Jonathan Banks, David Johansen, Amanda Plummer, Esai Morales
Freejack has an interesting idea behind it: rich people from the future steal bodies from the past seconds before they are about to die so that they can use these bodies to transfer their own consciousness into them and get a second chance at life, in a new body. So I guess we could say that in the future, rich people have discovered the secret to immortality. But what happens when one of these bodies resists being lobotomized and is fully aware of what’s being done to them? This is the premise for Freejack, a film based on the novel Immortality Inc. by Robert Sheckley. So yeah, interesting premise for a film, did the filmmakers pull it off well? Or is this another botched adaptation?
I haven’t read the novel, so I couldn’t tell you how well it translates from book to film, but I will say that the film has some interesting ideas behind it while still delivering some action. This is essentially a chase film, the kind of film in which characters are always running, jumping and escaping certain death. In that sense, Freejack is never a boring film. The film attempts also to infuse the proceedings with a hint of comedy, by this I don’t mean that it is ‘hardy har har funny’ but it certainly does have its fare share of one liners. Emilio Estevez plays Alex Furlong, the man on the run. While watching this film I couldn’t help and compare it a bit to Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall (1989), which in my opinion is the film that Freejack is trying to imitate, at least in tone. The problem is that nobody could imitate Paul Verhoeven’s acidic sense of humor and so Freejack just comes off as goofy, primarily because its leading man doesn’t seem to be taking things too seriously, he seems to be having a good old time with all these people chasing him and cars exploding around him. The film has this uneven tone to it, is it funny? Is it serious? I guess the only guy to blame for this would be Geoff Murphy, the films director.
I don’t know whose idea it was to put Emilio Estevez in the starring role, but in my book he just doesn’t pull of a convincing leading man, he looks like somebody who’s just goofing around the set rather than somebody who is running for his life. I guess the only reason Emilio Estevez is on this movie is because he’d worked before with Geoff Murphy on Young Guns II (1990). But I could definitely see somebody else on the title role, somebody with a little more ‘gravitas’, cause Estevez just doesn’t have them. In terms of supporting actors the film is solid; we get Anthony Hopkins, Rene Russo and we even get Mick Jagger as a lackey and New York Dolls front man David Johansen in a small role. But with such a solid cast, where Freejack failed was in choosing Estevez as the leading man. He seems more suited for a silly comedy like Loaded Weapon 1 (1993) than a science fiction film like this one.
The good thing about Freejack is that it has plenty of action sequences, the only problem is that it suffers from what a lot of action films from the 80’s suffered from: the chase sequences feel like a check list of every car stunt known to man. So you're like 'oh they're doing the car flipping over and exploding trick', they definetly have a been there done that feel to them at times. Now imagine that with Emilio Estevez pulling a one liner every time a car explodes and you get the jist of the kind of action sequences you can expect from Freejack. Still, some of the car stunts are pretty cool, however unbelievable.
On the cyberpunk side of things we get the dilapidated society, with rich people living in luxury and the poor living extreme poverty. We get the element of transferring human consciousness into a computer and then using modern technology to transfer a consciousness into a new human body. So there’s that common element seen in many Cyberpunk films of the ‘ghost in the machine’, an idea that was recently seen in Transcendence (2014) and also in Johnny Mnemonic (1994). Cool part about this whole ghost in the machine business is that it lends itself for some cool computer graphics and compositions which might feel a bit dated, but I’ll be honest, still look pretty cool by today’s standards. We also get that idea that big corporations have taken over the world, which is a staple of cyberpunk cinema, the big company is the big bad guy.
Another fault the film has is that cars that are supposed to look ‘futuristic’ , don’t. This is something that so many low to medium budget sci-fi films suffer from, the cheap or clunky looking cars. Last time I remember seeing it was on Equilibrium (2002). The problem is that they convert existing cars by adding a couple of panels and a coat of paint. Then voila!, they call them futuristic, but god, on this one it’s so blatantly obvious that they are not. Not to the director: painting a military vehicle red does not make it futuristic! So yeah, you get these clunky looking cars, which are not cool. These are the times when I miss Syd Mead or Jean Giraud doing the conceptual designs. Conceptual designs are so important in a science fiction film, if you don’t pay attention to conceptual design, where the artist designs elements from the film to make them look functional and cool at the same time, well, you get the clunkiness. I mean, look at the cars in freaking Blade Runner! The freaking Spinners are so awesome! I wanted a Spinner! But I do not want any of the cars in Freejack. In the end, Freejack is a fun, fast paced films that has a couple of hiccups along the way but is still a fun watch in my book. I like those scenes with Emilio Estevez and Anthony Hopkins battling for their respective minds! Just don’t expect a masterpiece and you’ll be fine, this one is a glorified b-movie all the way!
Rating: 3 out of 5