I'll admit to being a big fan of cyberpunk literature and film. I admire pioneers like William Gibson and Walter Williams who pushed science fiction to become socially relevant again after much neglect. I also admire far looking directors like Spielberg (Minority Report
), Luc Besson (Fifth Element
) and James Cameron (Strange Days
), who all immersed us in their original and inspired visions of a realistic near-future dominated by political and commercial interests clashing sometimes violently with culture. So you can imagine my complete disappointment
It's the early nineties and an oddly rebellious race driver named Alex Furlong (Emilio Estevez) is killed in an accident while his girlfriend Julie (Rene Russo) watches. Normally, you might expect this is the end of the story but...AH HA, not so fast, because in the future mankind has perfected the art of time travel, at least to the point of being able to snatch bodies from the past and import them into 2009. Why have they developed this bizarre version of Wells' time machine? To support the needs of the future elite, of course, is the answer from writer Robert Sheckley, on whose 1958 novel (Immortality, Inc.
See in the future, the rich and powerful can purchase freshly killed bodies from the past and then magically inject their own consciousness/memories into them, ala a sort-of latter-day Frankenstein
. Meanwhile their minds are downloaded into a huge, very strangely conceived computer system which Freejack
sticks at the top of a large skyscraper for some impractical reason, and then spends the rest of the movie making trite religious allusions about it (it's called the "spiritual switchboard", etc. etc.) to keep you "thinking." In the end, you've basically got a cyberpunk-high-tech-Frankenstein kind of story running alongside a crypto-sociological commentary on the evils of power and greed, and they crash together making a none too pretty mess all over perfectly good celluloid.
Causality and virtually all the standard time-travel paradoxes are helpfully avoided in Freejack
, allowing you to concentrate fully on the performances of a smart-ass, perplexed Estevez and his nemesis in this adventure, a weird, stoic hunter called Vacendak played by none other than Mick Jagger, for reasons I can't imagine. We may not care about the time-space continuum, but we sure do care about car chases, railing-deaths and lots of bullets flying all over the place, none of which, unfortunately comes close to replacing the weak plotline or Estevez/Jagger's flatlined center stage performances.
does have enough things going for it to warrant a watch, when your entertainment options are severely limited. There is Anthony Hopkins (Ian McCandless) for instance, who very capably plays the head of the world's largest corporation in 2009 and delivers the movie's only comprehensible performance (but you must wonder what kinda bet he lost to be seen in this puppy...). His character's a power-mad corporate caricature, but Hopkins still has more screen presence than the rest of the cast combined. There is also a 1992 vision of 2009, which is good for a few laughs, especially the stock "hooded cars" which are going to protect us, apparently, from all the UV rays thanks to the vanished ozone layer.