Shitty Movie Sundays: Freejack

Freejack is one of those movies that potential viewers might remember. They will vaguely remember a time when Emilio Estevez was a leading man, and they might recall that he was in a movie once called Freejack. They probably won’t remember what the movie was about, but they could remember that Mick Jagger, yes, that Mick Jagger, had a role. But, us shitty movie fans, we happy not-so-few, remember this as an ambitious and silly sci-fi action flick. We also remember that not only did Mick Jagger have a prominent part — his gloriously shitty performance stole the film.

Freejack, from director Geoff Murphy and screenwriters Steven Pressfield, Ronald Shusett, and Dan Gilroy, was released in 1992. In it, racecar driver Alex Furlong (Estevez) is about to have a big day. He’s got a championship race to run, and an important sponsorship deal on the horizon. He also has a lovely and devoted fiancé in Julie Redlund (Rene Russo), who is on hand to watch her man go out and win a grand prix. Only, that’s not how things turn out.

A wicked accident sends Furlong’s car flying into a bridge over the track, exploding on impact. It looks like Furlong has been killed. But! He wasn’t. Instead, Furlong was snatched through spacetime by a team of technicians and mercenaries from the future. They want Furlong precisely because of the accident. They have been tasked by an unknown client to seize Furlong at the moment of his death, and transport him to the far away year of 2009. There, Furlong’s mind will be wiped clean, and replaced with the mind of someone who has recently died and had their mind uploaded to a computer for temporary storage. This practice is called freejacking, and it’s legal because, one, this is a movie, and two, the freejacks who are being kidnapped from the past were going to die anyway, so fuck ’em.

The problem for the team of mercenaries, who are led by the cold, calculating, and cartoonishly sinister Victor Vacendak (Mick Jagger!), is that they had to do their work in New York City, which is a cesspool of violence after the collapse of the regular social order sometime between Furlong’s crash and 2009. Freejack is another example of a film where the United States has become a dystopian hellscape with out of control crime, joining Escape from New York, Class of 1999, and many, many others. The collapse in violent crime in the 1990s have turned all these types of films into futuristic anachronisms, and that’s not even taking into account how this particular production’s vision of future products like cars and computers deviated from what we eventually got out here in real life. Such are the perils of trying to predict the future. Good thing this is only a movie.

All Vacendak wants to do is deliver Furlong to his unknown client and get a paycheck, but his armored convoy is attacked, and Furlong wakes up and makes his escape into the city. While fleeing from Vacendak and an endless stream of heavily armed New Yorkers, Furlong seeks out and enlists Julie’s help. It has been eighteen years since she saw Furlong die in a ball of fire and crumpled metal. Since that time, she has moved up the corporate ladder, becoming a bigwig executive at the largest company in the world, the McCandless Corporation, which is run by Anthony Hopkins as Ian McCandless. How he fits into the story isn’t all that hard to guess, but I won’t spoil it here.

The remainder of the film is one car chase and gunfight after another as Furlong and Julie try to escape Vacendak’s clutches. If it weren’t all filmed so poorly, it would be a blast. As it is, it’s not the action that makes these scenes enjoyable. For all the expensive toys that Murphy employed, it’s kind of bland. What makes these sequences is that these are the scenes that feature the most Mick Jagger.

Mick Jagger is one of the greatest entertainers from the 20th century. He has been a popular musician of towering significance for over fifty years. As the frontman of the Rolling Stones, he has sung tunes that will be heard for centuries after his death. But the man cannot act for shit. Nor can he put on a passable American accent. But it’s very entertaining to watch him try to do both at the same time while also trying to be a menacing bad guy.

I really wish Mick had been given more chances after this to be a movie bad guy. A couple good turns might have gotten him a guest spot in one of The Expendables movies. As it is, audiences only get this one chance to see Mick spout bad guy lines, such as, “I want him...without a scratch.” And, “Show’s not over yet!” His delivery doesn’t come through in the written word, but for shitty movie fans it cannot be missed.

But from a serious perspective, Mick’s acting is one of the reasons Freejack is not a good movie. It’s not all his fault, of course. Estevez couldn’t carry a man-on-the-run action flick, and Murphy couldn’t direct one. Also, the CGI is vintage 1992. It didn’t even look all that good when it was released.

For every scene without Mick Jagger hamming it up, this is about as forgettable as a mediocre flick gets. It shows life in spots when Murphy throws in some black humor, most notably with Frankie Faison in a small part and Amanda Plummer as a foul-mouthed, gun-toting nun who didn’t have nearly enough scenes, but that’s about it. It didn’t have Mick Jagger stealing scenes, but that doesn’t stop Alien: Resurrection from being a better movie than Freejack.