Directed by Geoff Murphy. Starring Emilio Estevez, Mick Jagger, Rene Russo, Anthony Hopkins, Jonathan Banks, Amanda Plummer, David Johansen. (1992, R, 110 min.)
REVIEWED By Louis Black, Fri., Jan. 24, 1992
Certainly, you'd expect something with a little imagination from Murphy, the New Zealand director who attracted critical attention with his first two features, Utu and the disquieting post-apocalyptic meditation The Quiet Earth, though he took a dive when he went Hollywood with Young Guns II. The narrative complexity you get in Freejack about a future so desolate and polluted that the ozone layer is gone, and the entire human race is so wasted away that the very rich pay exorbitant amounts for time travelling body raiders to reach back and pluck out some fresh dynamic body, just before it is going to die. The computer-preserved brains of the recently dead are then computer encoded into the bodies and a certain immortality achieved. Race car driver Estevez is clutched moments before a fiery crash, only he survives the time travel, mind intact, and manages to escape into the world of the future with both body snatchers and corporate police after him. Visual style you also get, in this post-Blade Runner homage to the imagined city (in this case only 18 years away, in 2009) as visionarily baroque urban slum. The clever innovation is the borough of the rich, a delicate green and clean walled-off area where Estevez' girlfriend of 18 years past (Russo) lives, having become a vice president at the most powerful corporation in the world. And the story races along, with Estevez on the run becoming a political pawn and more groups trying to get him. The acting is mostly outstanding with terrific character performances from Johansen as a sleazy hustler and Plummer as a foul-mouthed dangerous nun, and a terrific villain turn from Jagger in a tailor-made role (only he really doesn't get to do enough). Only Estevez and Russo in the odd romantic coupling of her being 18 years older than him ignite no real fires, neither individually nor together. The film never really comes together. All the characters, scenes, politics and ideology don't really feel as though they fit in the same world. You don't imagine the creators of this film ever sat down and really thought about what 18 years in the future would be like but instead threw in lots of cool visual ideas. The film is fun to watch, but you never emotionally buy into the story or its world, and when you leave the theatre, they're gone. There's a lot to this speedy little complex science fiction adventure but what's missing is imagination.