Hello, friends in time, and welcome to a regular feature on Cinema 52 where I put my weekly viewing of Back to the Future on hold and watch another movie featuring time travel for comparison. It may not keep me sane, but it will probably always involve one guy shouting, “This doesn’t make any sense!” And that’s good enough for me.
In the distant future (2009!), time travel is used to harness bodies from the past at the exact moment they died, usually in horrific accidents that would leave no trace of a corpse anyway. These bodies are then used as meat-suits for the aging rich, buying themselves the closest thing to immortality that science can offer. But what would happen if one of these bodies escaped? Could a Mick Jagger pushing 50 catch him? Most importantly, would you want to watch it for 90 minutes?
I’ve gotta say, I’ve seen how the nineties handle time travel action movies, and I expected this to be utterly stupid. But, thankfully, it’s only mostly stupid!
Scanning for subtlety… 0%. Trace amounts of total radness.
So Alex Furlong (Emilio Estevez) is a race car driver who royally eats it during a race in the year Whenever The Movie Came Out. Mick Jagger plays… Vacendak? Really? That’s what IMDb says, but come on, he’s Mick Jagger. Anyway, Mick Jagger beams up Alex to the year 2009. Mick is what’s called a “bonejacker,” and when his mobile bonejacking unit (???) is attacked mid-bonejack, Alex takes the opportunity to escape, which makes him a “freejack.” Mick must use his bonejacking skills to chase down and confront the freejack, in what’s known as a “jack-off.” Okay, I lied. There’s also a race against time, as Mick’s boss, Ian McCandless (Anthony Hopkins), has his consciousness stored in the “spiritual switchboard” and can only last there for a few days before he needs to be transferred to an actual body. So, yeah. There it is.
Yes, it’s a premise that you can probably see in your head, but there are some legitimately neat twists for a car-chases-and-machine-guns flick. Of particular interest is where the loyalties of various characters lie, but I don’t want to say too much. It’s a mystery of who’s working for which person and what’s in it for them.
The time travel, despite being the catalyst for the story, isn’t actually a huge part of moving the plot along. I was okay with this. Once Alex ends up in the future and isn’t even regarded as a human being with any legal rights, it stops being a Get Home movie and becomes purely a Stay Alive movie. Complaining about the time travel being pushed aside is like saying Jurassic Park should have been 90 minutes of cloning facilities. Whether faced with velociraptors or a gun-wielding Mick Jagger, Goal Number One is run.
Par for the course on all fronts, really. Emilio Estevez is your usual Bizarro Charlie Sheen, Anthony Hopkins has fun being a bad guy, Rene Russo is being whoever she is in whichever Lethal Weapon she first shows up in. This isn’t really an acting showcase, guys.
Oh, I guess I can’t judge Mick Jagger’s acting work as being stereotypical, because I’ve never seen him act before.
Unless you count that Bowie video.
Honestly, it’s a problem. He switches from stoic badass to fun, goofy psychopath for no apparent reason. I think Mick just wanted to play every style of henchman in one go in case he didn’t get hired for any more dumb action movies. But hey, maybe he’s good in Ned Kelly or Running Out of Luck. People don’t get in movies if they can’t act, right?
THE SPECIAL EFFECTS:
This is Freejack‘s moment in the sun. And no, the special effects aren’t good, they’re just memorable.
“Memorable” is code for “you’re gonna want drugs.”
Toward the end of the movie, Alex enters the spiritual switchboard, which is just an excuse for a bunch of trippy effects. You’re gonna laugh your ass off. Look at this shit.
Did that even look good in the ’90s? That’s like some old school Frankenstein crap. Here, enjoy the Doctor Who opening titles made out of Rene Russo faces.
Or like if the Stargate just transported you to a channel showing The Thomas Crown Affair.
It’s goofy, but it’s exactly the kind of goofy you need.
- When I rounded up all my Time Out movies, it was cheaper to get this on VHS than DVD, so I did. The VHS opens with the music video for “Hit Between the Eyes” by the Scorpions. Enjoy that.
- For being set in the future, many of the thugs in 2009 sound like 1930’s gangsters.
- At one point, Emilio says, “Fuck you, asshole,” in his best Schwarzenegger voice, because The Terminator is a film that was popular.
THE “NONE OF THIS MAKES ANY SENSE!” MOMENT:
I’ve got to level with you nice readers; less and less characters seem to be confused by time travel the more films I watch. I thought the N.O.T.M.A.S. moment was going to be a staple of all of them, but I think directors or producers just want to look past all the silly rules so the audience doesn’t get confused. In Freejack, there are no paradoxes, and Alex just plain doesn’t ask if there could be.
I hate skipping this section, so here’s a line of dialogue that doesn’t make sense so I can at least give you something. Because it’s the future, everybody drives a stupid car. Because stupid cars should always be destroyed, there’s a chase scene.
Yes, Estevez is getting away in a champagne truck.
Mick Jagger chases Alex through dangerously busy streets, ramming him into forty or so various obstacles, until he eventually jumps out of the truck and careens off of a goddamned bridge. Mick looks over the side as Alex splashes into the water and delivers this head-scratcher of a line:
“You drink any of that, I’ll be out of a job.”
Yeah, because an action movie car chase is the safest way to preserve his body, but heaven forbid he slurp some dirty water… this movie’s incredible.
You may have seen a few ridiculous seconds of Freejack in Tony Scott’s True Romance, as Brad Pitt’s stoner character is watching it on TV. I assumed the rest of the movie was just as stupid as that clip, but honestly, it tries harder than some other ’90s sci-fi action movies that think they’re smart. It’s no Total Recall or The Matrix, but it’s not an entirely disposable piece of schlock, either. It may have been panned by critics, but at the end of the day, I’ll take it over Timecop.
LATER THIS WEEK:
The Grand Tour (1992)
Want more time travel? Head on over to the Time Out archive.