Reviewed by: Dave
April 15, 2012

Runaway - Tom Selleck as Sgt. Ramsay at Robot Construction Site
Runaway (1984) has two big things going for it.

The first, of course, is robots. Set in the not-too-distant future, Runaway takes place in a time where robots have become a trusted part of everyday life. Housekeeper robots, office robots, farming robots, construction robots – all types of robots are everywhere.

We also get to know some of the robots that are used by the villains, such as insect robots that inject acid and then explode, mini-mobile bomb robots that can drive on freeways at 60 MPH and heat-seeking robot bullets that track their targets based on unique body heat signatures.

The second thing is the people. In the cast we have quite a few recognizable faces.

Tom Selleck, who at the time was already four years into his hit TV show Magnum P.I., plays Sgt. Jack Ramsay, a robot specialist on the police force. All of his cases involve malfunctioning, or runaway, robots.

However Ramsay finds himself on his biggest and most deadly case yet, when he discovers a diabolical plan by evil scientist Dr. Luther to create and mass produce malicious circuit chips that cause everyday robots to kill.

Gene Simmons as Dr. Charles Luther in Runaway, 1984
Gene Simmons as Dr. Charles Luther

Gene Simmons, from the rock band K.I.S.S., plays the villain Dr. Charles Luther. Runaway was his first major acting role, and he would continue to play the bad guy in many of his future film appearances. His next acting job following Runaway was a guest starring part on Miami Vice in 1985.

Kirstie Alley, who would go on to play Rebecca Howe on the TV show Cheers a few years after Runaway, is Dr. Luther’s sidekick Jackie Rogers. A few years before Runaway she appeared in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, as the female Vulcan Saavik.

G.W. Bailey plays Sgt. Ramsay’s boss, the Chief of Police. Bailey also appeared in another popular robot film – Short Circuit. You might also recognize him as Capt. Harris from the Police Academy movies.

One additional recognizable name that was involved in this film is author and filmmaker Michael Crichton. Runaway was written and directed by Crichton and shares a similar theme to the first feature film he directed – Westworld – which also tells the story of a robots-gone-haywire scenario.

Runaway has a lot of other fun things going for it too. The crazy space jazz synthesizer soundtrack gives the movie a futuristic sound, although sometimes it can be a little too manic. And you can’t beat the awkward father/son dialogue between widower Sgt. Ramsay and his ten year old son.

But I would say that I most enjoyed the robots, specifically because they are my favorite kind of special effects – real, electro-mechanical models that someone could build in their basement or garage.

These are the kind of robots that you could actually envision existing in the near future, rolling around the house or office and talking in choppy sentences with a digitized voice (or in the case of the insect robots, crawling up your leg and injecting you with acid).

If you’re looking for a fun science fiction ride with some quirky 80s nostalgia behind it, I would definitely recommend seeing this movie. There are plenty of interesting robots for the technical side of the story, and plenty of interesting actors that will take you on a trip down memory lane.
Visit our Runaway title page for more information and to watch the trailer.
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