Ok, you've had two weeks of movies that are really good and I highly recommend watching, so now we must return to the 'I can't believe this is for real' genre. The pick this week is Runaway, which deceptively enough is not about some sad teen who moves away from a terrible home life to make it in the big city. Instead this awesomely bad flick takes us into a future where machines have become the standard for household help, physical labor, and menial tasks in general,* but no other aspect of technology has really advanced (read: working on kind of a low budget).
The cast is off the hook, almost making up for the poor performance in most other parts of the flick. Tom Selleck assumes the role of hero, Gene Simmons does a stellar job of being the uber-creepy villain, Kirstie Alley is the girlfriend of Gene Simmons, and Cynthia Rhodes is Tom Selleck's new partner. Plot is: Tom Selleck as hot nerdy cop in the robotics division who chases down good robots gone bad. Gene Simmons is archetypal villain hell-bent on creating chaos. Said chaos takes the form of replacing robots' computer chips with ones that make them go on crazy murderous rampages.
There's also some fun subtext of Tom Selleck being super single dad (wife died in a car accident a couple years ago) and gets new partner Cynthia Rhodes. There's the obligatory sexual tension with Cynthia being the babe that she is and all, but when Tom meets Kirstie Alley he thinks she's super smokin' and does silly macho stuff to try and impress her. But when he finds out that she's a badie he refocuses that lust back on Cynthia. Oh, the drama.
The movie very much feels more like a precursor to CSI or Law and Order than a true sci-fi flick, but again, I think that was due more to budget restraints. But the future portrayed is not one that I'd like to be a part of, mostly because of how horribly obnoxious the robots are.** Really, they're terrible - like overbearing mothers and codependent partners rolled all into one. At least the help-around-the-house robots with speech synthesis abilities are (this would be Lois in the film). The other ones that do stuff seem to just do stuff, but I guess we don't want those programmed to do all our work to be too intelligent. Cuts down on worries for a robot uprising, at least until a villain replaces all their chips.
But wait! Besides the uber obnoxious robots, the other thing that separates now from the future is magic bullets! But only villains have built this technology at that point in the future. That's right, Gene, and only Gene, has these super special bullets that chase you down. They sense your heat imprint (what your body looks like in infrared) and zoom around corners and other obstructions to hunt you down. And the bullets explode when they hit you too, just to make extra sure that you die.
In any case, we as viewers are introduced to the horror of good robots gone bad with a light-hearted romp through cornfields after a pest control bot goes berserk. Cynthia gets the thing (thank god she's portrayed as a capable woman in this film, very much appreciate that), and we learn of Tom's debilitating fear of heights. The next crazy robot scenario we see is much darker.
This robot has knifed two people to death in their home and is now holding a ten month old baby hostage. And it's got a gun. For serious. Apparently none of the robotics engineers in the future read Asimov, or have thought to implement his laws when making their robots. But then again, this movie's thought-provoking only on the most basic level. So Tom Selleck goes in, shoots rogue robot, and saves teh baby.
So the rest of the movie is basically Tom and Cynthia solving the mystery of the rogue robots, chasing down the villain Gene, and saving the day. For once I won't spoil the ending, but I will say that it is super happy and wonderful and everything else you'd expect. Moral of the story: when we get to that point in the future where we've got lots of AI, we need to take lots of precautions towards preventing hardware/software hacks that hijack the robot into becoming crazed killing machines.
* Yeah, according to Runaway, in the future the immigrant and all lower classes will be replaced by robots! Hooray! No more of those pesky poor people unionizing and demanding rights. Seriously though, if you watch this movie, everyone is in the upper middle class and lives in the 'burbs. And a construction manager explicitly says that one site is being built almost exclusively with robots so the company doesn't have to worry about unions, etc.
** Also because of the previous footnote.