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Looking Back: Freejack (1992)

The question plaguing Alex Furlong throughout “Freejack” is, who transported me to the future and wants to steal my body for personal use? The real question any rational moviegoer will have while watching “Freejack” is, what in the world are Emilio Estevez, Mick Jagger and Sir Anthony Hopkins doing in the same movie?

In the opening scenes of “Freejack,” we see a bleak, junk-strewn futuristic world where a major scientific operation is taking place. A helmeted leader directs a squad of scientists who patch in on an event that took place in 1992 (by the way, this is set in that far off future world of 2009!). As Furlong (played by Estevez) is about to enter another triumphant day as a race car driver, the scientists of the future are setting up a time portal that will zap him into their future. The man in charge takes off his helmet- turns out its Jagger, sneering like the pro he is. His first big line, which he recites in that deliciously thick accent: “Okay, let’s do it.” Suddenly, Furlong’s exploding car in ’92 leads his girlfriend, Julie (Rene Russo), and everyone he left behind to believe he died…when he’s actually in 2009, on the run from Jagger’s goons. Furlong’s only hope is to track down Julie in the future; she turns to her business colleague McCandless (played by Hopkins) to save her time traveling boyfriend.

The term “guilty pleasure” has rarely resonated with me, as I have no guilt, shame or regret in re-watching something as much fun and Velveeta-cheesy as “Freejack.” In addition to a “Mighty Ducks”-era Estevez, there’s also a reliably hammy David “Buster Pointdexter” Johansen, Amanda Plummer as a gun toting nun (the only kind in movies like these), Jonathan Banks as a corporate slimeball and Jerry Hall in a funny cameo as a news reporter.

Estevez captures Furlong’s desperation early on, then becomes far too relaxed in the role. The character loses his existential edge and becomes an un-killable quip-meister. At times, it appears that Estevez is reverting back to his Billy the Kid role from “Young Guns.” Hopkins is suave and creepy, though the role mostly requires him to spout pages of exposition. His best decision here is smoke a stogey during the big reveal at the end. Russo is very good (and was just months away from her breakthrough as a smart, female action hero in ‘Lethal Weapon 3″) but, again, the screenplay does her no favors. Jagger seems thoroughly amused, which is understandable. “Performance” and “The Man From Elysian Fields” may be his best, most definitive film work (as well as “Gimme Shelter”) but here, playing the absurdly named “Vacendak,” he becomes a special effect in a movie that doesn’t deserve him.

Like Furlong, “Freejack” keeps moving and piles on the camp every step of the way. At least it has a healthy sense of humor about itself, as well as an unfailingly momentous pace by director Geoff Murphy (who helmed the exceptional “Young Guns II”).

For a big budget Warner Brother movie, it looks like it was filmed on one of those dark, dirty Cannon Films sets. After an hour, “Freejack” becomes redundant and the entertainment value starts to run on Empty.

By the time someone gets his arm shot off and Jagger once again corners then loses Estevez, the movie needs something truly special to elevate it. Thankfully, the third act is up to the challenge. The movie is enjoyable junk from start to finish but it’s the final sequences that give it a much needed kick. Without giving anything away (though the big plot twist is absurdly easy to figure out), the scenes set within the Switchboard of the Souls saves the movie. Featuring antiquated but still awfully cool looking visual effects out of “Altered States,” the best of “Freejack” is indeed saved for last. Even the very last moment, involving some tongue in cheek reveals, are handled well. Rather than aiming to be another “Blade Runner” and winding up “Split Second,” “Freejack” begins with pretensions on the subject of true identity, then seems to be saying, Just kidding, kids, have fun!

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