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Oct 10, 2007

Dystopian Dichotomy

The other day, I came across a list of the "Top 50 Dsytopian Movies of All Time." It's a well done list overall, though there are many quibbles by the nearly 300 commenters over the loose use of the term "dystopia" to describe some of the films mentioned (Pleasantville probably got the most "WTFs?") and the choices of some of the other films.

Now, a dystopia is essentially defined as the opposite of utopia, but can also be described as a utopia with a fatal flaw. Regardless of whether or not all the films fully qualify, it's still a quality list. Though it's missing one (that just happens to be on TV at the time of this writing. Inspiration!). Only one of the 280 commenters (at the time of this writing) bothered to mention it, and even then he was half-joking. I say nay! Freejack belongs.

In case you're not wildly familiar with it, Freejack is a 1992 film starring Emilio Estevez, Anthony Hopkins, Renee Russo, and Mick Jagger. The dichotomy in the title of this post refers to the fact that this is probably Tony Hopkins worst film, but Emilio's best (I say that half-joking and with love, as well). Though it's nowhere near the realm of "good bad" movies like Bloodsport or Roadhouse, it's also a pretty lo-fi, low budget version of what could have been a great sci-fi flick. Believe it or not, Mick Jagger even does a splendid job as the bounty hunter on Emilio's tail.

The story, if you're not aware, goes something like this (from Wikipedia, and contains spoilers):

"In the 21st century, time travel technology allows people to be snatched from the past just prior to the time of their certain demise. The live bodies, called "freejacks," are then sold to the highest bidder as a host for his/her consciousness, as they are considered already dead and thus have no human rights.

Alex Furlong, played by Emilio Estevez, is a formula car racer who is apparently killed during a race in 1991. However, his body is brought 18 years into the future to 2009, where he manages to escape prior to a mind transfer into his body. Victor Vacendak, played by Mick Jagger, is a hardened security officer contracting for the McCandless Corporation who tries to recapture Furlong. Alex's former fiancée Julie, played by Rene Russo, is now an executive at McCandless.

The remainder of the film concerns Alex's survival in the world of the future, eluding capture by the persistent Victor, and his attempt to revive his relationship with Julie. Ian McCandless, Julie's boss, played by Anthony Hopkins, is revealed to be the dying man trying to steal Furlong's body as he himself died on a business trip out of town."

First off, I love that it only goes in time 18 years, to a scant two years from where we currently reside. This is an awful thing that many futuristic films do - the same thing was done in Demolition Man, amongst others. Do the writers really expect technology to jump forward that much in that short a time? Unfortunately, it's a necessary evil here, as Russo is still playing Estevez's love interest - her character would just happen to be old enough to be his mother in "the future," but it might be a bit odd if they jumped 40 years and there was suddenly a 25 year old guy having the hots for what could be his grandmother. But I digress...

Bad as some of the acting (the always-somewhat-awful-but-still-enjoyable Jonathan Banks, for starters) and effects are, I can't help but enjoy and recommend this movie. Any time you have Russo still slumming, Hopkins not yet a prestige name and appearances by Buster Poindexter and Amanda Plummer, combined with a very Phillip K. Dick-like story, you're bound to have a winner.


2 people have chosen wisely: on "Dystopian Dichotomy"

Matt said...

I cannot resist Freejack when it's on television.

bixby said...

I love movies that don't jump far enough into the future. If I'm not mistaken, I believe Robocop actually "took place" in 1995.