Monday Morning Movie Review: Runaway (1984)

I love the idea of robots being an everyday part of our lives.  And, yes, before some wag points out that everything we use is probably made in a factory consisting of robots, let me hasten to add that by “robots,” I mean something more along the lines of lovable Star Wars droids, or like a Roomba with more personality—like Rosie from The Jetsons.

As such, I tend to like movies about robots, although that’s a pretty slender subgenre.  One film in that subgenre that I enjoyed, though it was not a good movie, was 1984’s Runaway, starring a mustachioed Tom Selleck as a police officer charged with disabling malfunctioning robots.

Again, this is not a good movie, but it has a great premise:  robots have become commonplace, and mostly take care of rudimentary tasks around the house, or work as security sentries.  However, being man-made machines, robots often malfunction.  Rather than having independently licensed robot technicians come in and take care of these problem cases (called “runaways”), society has foisted that job onto police officers, who work on the “runaway” squad.

In the film, Tom Selleck investigates a robot that has been modified to commit murder.  It’s harrowing when he enters the suburban home where the renegade robot is firing a handgun, but the suspense and sense of danger both subside quickly when the robot murderer is revealed:  it’s a very 1970s/1980s electronic box on wheels with this hilarious robotic arm wielding a pistol.  The arm flops limply, taking the whole droid unit back, when it fires the gun—probably the effect recoil would have on a little robot.

I honestly don’t remember much about the flick other than the robots—and Gene Simmons.  Yep, Gene Simmons from KISS, one of my favorite bands, is the villain, a deranged robotics expert who has built and programmed robots to kill humans for… some reason.

Tom Selleck’s character is a true expert on robots (in one scene, a rogue sentry droid won’t respond to voice commands; Selleck explains that a manufacturing defect results in heat from the robot dissolving the glue holding the voice-activation chip to the robot’s motherboard, resulting in that particular problem; that was one of the most interesting moments in the film!), and knows all of their quirks.  He also uses a robot in his home, who functions as a kind of surrogate mother to his aggressively annoying son.

Oh, man, the son:  a good child actor is worth his weight in Hollywood pedophile ring demonic sacrifices.  This kid was bad.  He just sounding annoying.  At the end of the film, when Selleck and Simmons face off, a horde of spider-bots waiting to kill Selleck’s son, I was hoping the spiders might get their prey.  Selleck manages to save his son—for better or for worse—and it is Simmons that the spider-bots stab to death.

Really, the highlight of the film are the robots, and Selleck’s masterful knowledge of them.  The robots, which rarely talk, have personalities.  Early in the film, Selleck and his hot new assistant go to a corn field to catch a robot (I think it’s meant to be a mouser—it functions the same way a cat would, killing varmints).  The assistant picks the robot up at one point, only for it to discharge sparks as a defense mechanism.  She drops the robot, and the two bumble about chasing the robot as amused farmers look on.

Besides some of the bad acting, the part of this film that really got me scratching my head was the notion that the police would be responsible for apprehending “runaways.”  Sure, the homicidal robot makes sense, and humans reprogramming robots to kill or commit crimes would certainly be a police matter.  But why were two police officers flown in a helicopter to apprehend what is essentially a feisty cat from a massive cornfield?  The expense to the taxpayer boggles the mind.  Why wouldn’t the five farmers yucking it up on a truck try to catch the robot?  Other than some sparks, it didn’t seem all that dangerous. Even if it were, wouldn’t there be robot pest control companies that would take care of these situations?

Don’t get me wrong:  I love the idea that robots are making eggs for breakfast and guarding office buildings.  The rest of the premise just doesn’t make sense.  Maybe in the 1980s police departments weren’t as cash-strapped as they are now.  Whatever the case, it seems like the equivalent of calling the fire department to get a cat out of a tree.

Regardless, Runaway was fun for its very 1980s vision of a near-future filled with robots, and the inclusion of Gene Simmons.  Otherwise, without the robots, it’s utterly forgettable.

25 thoughts on “Monday Morning Movie Review: Runaway (1984)

  1. Have a pint on me, good sir. Alcohol is a requirement for bad movies and this sounds like one. I’ll be giving it a miss, I’m afraid, but ten out of ten for getting through it. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Like I said, I loved the robots. It was a very inventive vision of the near-future (from Michael Crichton, no less), and a fun movie in its own way. But a lot of it felt like filler. The robots were the real appeal for me.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. On the other hand – my apologies to 39 – you almost make me want to see this movie, Port. I would love to see Simmons as a bad guy; he’s got the face for it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jean Simmons, yes. A halfway decent actress and Guys and Dolls is a great movie. Gene Simmons?! Hell no. It’s not often musicians get involved in films and pull it off. I say either stick to music or acting and never the twain shall meet. Have you heard Laurence Fox’s music? The guy can play but it’s horrible. Some people find a niche, they find they’re reasonable to good and they should stick with it.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I beg to differ; Alice Cooper was in a horror movie (Prince of Darkness, 1987) – a minor roll – and his ‘resting face’ (no make up was used) enhanced the character’s ‘off-ness’. Gene Simmons has a less than welcoming ‘resting face’ and I think he’d be excellent as a bad guy.

        Liked by 2 people

      • They say that every musician wants to be an actor, and every actor wants to be a musician. There is a lot of Truth to that statement. As a musician who has acted (and quite well, from what audience members tell me), I will say that a big part of my music is being theatrical. I definitely “play” a part when I am on stage. My on-stage persona used to be an exaggerated version of myself, but one that was hyper-confident to the point of being obnoxious, haha.

        Liked by 2 people

    • He actually does a great job as the villain. It’s a good thing KISS wear so much make-up, because Gene Simmons is a scary looking dude!

      I saw this movie on Amazon Prime Video, so if you want to check it out, enjoy! It’s not utterly terrible, just forgettable in places.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. From what I hear, Kamala Harris is a bit of a player (in the bedroom) but I don’t think anyone wants to see her in a romance movie. 🙂

    Different horses, different courses, I guess.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, that itself might be a bit of an exaggeration—or the wrong word. My whole schtick was that I acted like I was the greatest musician in the world… then proceeded to sing humorous novelty songs on a crummy keyboard. : D People ate it up. I still “play” that character, but it’s a bit more toned down now.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Made a big impression. The guy running from the heat seeking bullet freaked me out and I left the room. Came back a while later and it was the robot spiders, no thanks.
        Surprised I remember it, must have been 1985.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Isn’t it funny how those images stick out to us? I have vivid memories of seeing snippets of the _IT_ miniseries and the film version of _Salem’s Lot_. Those vampires—the Nosferatu variety—still creep me out!

        Liked by 1 person

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