a critiQal film review Freejack (1992)

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Plot: Alex (Estevez), a racecar driver, is snatched from the moment of his very public death in 1992 and transported to the year 2009, where the McCandless Corporation is planning on using his body as the new host for a dead billionaire - completely wiping Alex's mind in the process. Pursued by Vacendak (Jagger) and his group of bounty hunters, Alex turns to his former girlfriend (Russo), who is now employed by the very company trying to erase his mind.

1174 words (Est. Reading Time 5m 52s)

After watching Timecop (1994) last week, I decided to stick with the same theme: “futuristic” sci-fi flicks whose “future” has already come to pass. This week, it’s Freejack, the eclectically cast sci-fi actioneer that takes place mainly in the “futuristic” year of 2009.

Would Freejack be worth watching again? Or has time been unkind to this low-budget sci-fi flick?

Emilio Estevez has mostly disappeared from the limelight these days. For those of us who remember his career, there are numerous reasons why. Aside from a few interesting roles – Young Guns, The Breakfast Club (1985) and a brief showing in Mission: Impossible (1996) – this babyface of an actor eventually fell into the kiddie movie rut. He then spent most of his later career known for playing the coach in The Mighty Ducks and it’s sequels.

At first glance, Estevez seems too much of a babyface to star in a sci-fi action flick like Freejack – and mostly he is. However, the director uses that innocent quality to make him stand out that much more from the people of the future, who have been hardened and beaten by a much bleaker world than the world Estevez is from.

Still, that babyface only goes skin deep in the film, as Estevez’s character spends much of the film swearing up a blue streak. It’s a strange disconnect between that simple innocence he seems to project and his language in the film. It’s odd, especially in a film world where profanity is such a common occurrence most people barely even notice it anymore. And yet, Estevez’s swearing, coming out of that fresh-faced exterior, manages to seem amazingly off-kilter for the character. The viewer will never be able to quite make it fit with what they see.

Estevez doesn’t manage to produce a strong on-screen presence in Freejack either. Or any real sense of direction, for that matter. Disoriented right from the first moment he hits this futuristic time, his character never really manages to get back on his feet. Instead, he relies on other characters to propel him to the next step of his journey. Normally, the action hero, no matter how outnumbered or disoriented, always manages to steer the course of events his way. With Estevez’s Furlong, it’s more of a chance of luck that brings him from one sequence to the next. Without a commanding presence, Estevez’s action hero persona grows dull quickly for the viewer. It’s only his fellow actors that help save him – and the entire film – from total ruin.

While solid performances are expected – and delivered – from well-known names like Rene Russo and (briefly) Anthony Hopkins, it’s the surprise standouts that help this movie along. Amanda Plummer very nearly steals the show as a bad-mouthed nun, despite only being around for a few minutes. But it’s Mick Jagger’s star turn that will keep people involved.

Known for his singing as frontman for The Rolling Stones rather than his acting, most people won’t expect much from his acting. They will be pleasantly surprised when he quietly smirks his way to the front of the stage. As a “bonejacker” – a futuristic bounty hunter – Jagger gets most of the best lines of the movie, and uses them to his advantage as he plays along. His usual smirk is still there, but this time it actually seems justified as he firmly delivers his character with a fun, tongue-in-cheek approach. Never taking his character too seriously, he brings the viewer in to enjoy the fun. He emphasizes the joy he has playing what is, in all reality, a very cheesy character. His barely-contained happiness at playing someone so downright silly is infectious, and he will keep the viewer sticking around to see what happens next.

The plot itself is simplistic enough, if a bit nigh of believable. Technology has been created that pulls a person from time the moment before their death. It’s not to save them, however – it’s so their unmarked bodies can be used as a new host for the rich when their own bodies have failed them. In the process, the original mind of the new body is wiped completely clean. Sure, the idea that bodies of “normal folk” are used by the rich to prolong their own selfish lives isn’t something new. Heck, even “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (TV) did a storyline along those same lines at one point. But the execution of the plot leaves a bit something to be desired. It just never really works for the viewer.

Thankfully, that’s not a problem in Freejack, since the storyline is merely a backdrop to present some futuristic fugitive action pic, rather than something truly meaningful or deep. That’s plainly evident to the viewer, as every time the story wraps itself around to new technology, an explanation is ready as to what this new technology actually does. That way, the viewer doesn’t have to waste needless time trying to remember what the film is about. They can just back and watch the action without using their brain at all.

Timecop (1994) had some fun, “futuristic” technological advances (including the use of time travel on a regular basis and some fancy automated vehicles that some viewers may wish were actually a reality). Freejack, on the other hand, with it’s much lower budget, had to rely on re-using 1992’s technology a lot more. Consequently, some of the fancier vehicles have gotten an upgrade (turning into a somewhat larger, and bubblier, version of the VW Beetle). Most everyone else, however, is driving around in vehicles that look like they could have been found in 1992 – whether they be a Champagne truck or the off-road ATV’s the “bonejackers” are tooling around in.

Even the computers look much more dated in Freejack. Whether it’s the Windows ’95 version of surveillance monitors or the screen saver that is the Spiritual Switchboard, their technological “advances” are much more dated than those of Timecop (1994).

Even the special effects like green-screening are much more dated in Freejack. Sadly, they are patently obvious in more than one sequence. Time has not been kind to low-budget sci-fi pics that tried to take advantage of new technology long before it was perfected. Freejack is no exception.

Still, this low-budget pic was smart enough to pick such an oddball mix of a cast that there’s bound to be a performance likable by someone. There’s Estevez’s baby face swearing up a blue streak, the man who would be Buster Poindexter popping up like a rat from a hole, Jagger’s big-lipped laugh at himself, Plummer’s hilariously foul-mouthed nun, Russo’s strong female, or Hopkins’ brief appearance (even though he, quite literally, phones most of that in). Whatever the viewer is looking for, there’s someone to like in Freejack.

So, Freejack has way too many flaws to actually be “great” by any means. And there’s Emilio Estevez’s ill-suited presence. Still, there’s a reason Freejack is a cult classic by this point (namely the supporting cast, especially Mick Jagger). Check it out for yourself, and see if you don’t agree.

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