This looked incredibly cheesy when it was out, what with its grid-design poster that looks like no one wanted to spend too much money, and cheesy indeed it is. This is adapted from a novel by Ron Shussett and Dan Gilroy, who were involved in Alien, among other things. It's directed by Geoff Murphy who also did Young Guns II and Under Siege II.
We open with ominous trucks cruising through the night. Then cut to Emilio Estevez as Alex Furlong, waking in his suburban home with wife Renee Russo as Julie. Then--ominous trucks with Mick Jagger! His name is Vacendak, but let's just call him Jagger. More suburban harmony! More ominous trucks! It's kind of hard to see how they fit together, and it's not really that intriguing. Alex is a race car driver, and we are introduced to his manager, played by David Johanson. Then--ominous trucks! Jagger's first line is "Okay! Let's do it!" and we can see that we're in for a film full of bad acting. We have some character stuff to show us that Alex is a rebel, and that he and Julie are in love, then he enters the race, crashes, and is consumed in a huge fireball.
Or IS he? It would seem that Jagger and friends brought Alex into the future seconds before the crash, so that everyone back then will think he's dead... even though there will be no body. The ominous trucks are then attacked by... you know, someone, and in the ensuing melee, Alex escapes. You see, Jagger gets people from the past for older people, in the future of 2009 (this was released in 1992), to switch bodies with. The older person gets a fresh new body, and the person from the past is considered dead anyway, so they get trapped in an old body and die. Alex, having escaped, is now a FREEJACK, and we are to believe that he is a hunted man and unable to be helped by anyone. Jagger reports to his superior, Michelette, that Alex is gone and is ordered to track him down, or else.
Alex wanders through a vastly changed New York City--changed mostly because this was obviously filmed in Omaha or somewhere with hugely wide streets--which is now pretty much a city-wide slum with crime and poverty everywhere, and big electric billboards offering suicide assistance. He finds David Johanson, who tells him where to find Julie before betraying Alex and turning him in, beginning a long series of chases and shootouts and more chases. Johanson is actually quite good. We also get some nice coverage of the cars of the future, which are these gargantuan things that resemble scrubbing bubbles.
Alex finds Julie in her apartment, but she doesn't believe it's really him. She is supposedly 20 years older, although she hasn't aged a day. The fact that they now have a serious age gap in their relationship is never explored. Julie works for Anthony Hopkins as McCandless. This movie came out after Silence of the Lambs had made Hopkins a star, and was one of the first glimmers that he would indeed act indiscriminately in pretty much anything. Jagger shows up at Julie's apartment, causing her to believe Alex, and... more chases, more shootouts.
It would seem that even though there's a $15 million bounty on Alex's head, he can go to crowded nightclubs without a problem. Jerry Hall shows up as a TV reporter. Frankie Faison shows up as a wise old homeless person. Then, well, we haven't had a chase or a shootout in a while. What about a shootout-chase? That would be different. Gotta mix things up a bit.
SPOILERS > > >
Meanwhile Jagger is developing a grudging respect for his wily opponent. Numerous shots show us that Russo is quite a bit taller and just plain larger than tiny Estevez. Alex finds out that the one who wants to take His body is... McCandless, Julie's trusted boss! And guess what else? McCandless has been brain-dead for three days! And Michelette is going to let him die and take over the company.
Shocking developments, to be sure. Then Julie and Alex take the elevator down, and toward certain death at the hands of Michelette's army of goons! But then Jagger shows up just in time and mows down the army of goons! Then they take the elevator up, all the way up to the brain-o change-o station at the top, where they encounter leftover effects from 2001 and--McCandless! He's back alive! Or it's a projection from the machine, or something, but he's walking around in the room with them. We learn that he did it all... for LOVE. He's in love with Julie, and he thought that if he just squeezed into her husband's body he could do her all day and all night and she'd be none the wiser. I ask you, ladies and gentleman: Is that love? No matter, he forces Alex at gunpoint to begin the brain transfer procedure.
This causes all sorts of cheesy special effects, mostly in the form of lightning bolts and pictures that represent Alex's memories flowing into McCandless. But! Julie grabs a gun and blows up the machine, mid-mind-transfer! Then Michelette and Jagger show up, and Michelette is going to claim the company--but Alex says that he is now McCandless and the company is HIS! He recites McCandless' 13-digit ID number, and Jagger knows it's him, and blows Michelette away! Now Alex and Julie are rich beyond their wildest dreams! but as they're driving away, Jagger stops them--he knows it's really just Alex, pretending to be McCandless! But he's going to let this one slide, because he thinks Alex is awesome! And they're all one being happy family. Hooray!
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Yummm, I do love me some cheesy, senseless science fiction. This one is definitely sci-fi lite, with just a few ideas and a dash of futurism tossed over a bunch of chases and shootouts. And if there's one big problem--I mean, aside from the general cheesiness of all this--it's that it's just too many chases and shootouts. To the point where it just gets boring and repetitive. There's just not enough interesting stuff happening in between to give it any momentum, so it feels like just chase and shootout until we get to the climax.
But whatever. What do you want? It's a movie that could only attract Emilio Estevez, so I don't think one should expect Blade Runner. It's enough cheesy fun, and you can fast-forward through the chases. If you're expecting something good, I would advise you away, but if you come in expecting cheesy sci-fi, you will indeed get cheesy sci-fi and go away satisfied.
If you get off on mediocre, cheesy sci-fi action with lots of chases and shootouts.