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Simon Read [Celluloid 11.23.09] movie news scifi

Finally we can all relax; we’re officially living in the future – at least according to the 1992 dystopian sci-fi thriller Freejack, directed by Geoff Murphy (The Quiet Earth) and starring Emilio Estevez, Rene Russo, Anthony Hopkins and… Mick Jagger!

Set on the 23rd November 2009, it envisions a desperate future where men are hunted through time to house the minds of the rich and influential, who wait after death on the Spiritual Switchboard until a host body is drafted from the past. Estevez is one such host, or Freejack, as he’s zipped from a car crash in 1993 all the way to… now… where he’s chased around by Mick Jagger, playing a bounty hunter (‘Bonejacker’) called Vacendak, working for Hopkins. Estevez escapes and tries to find his former girlfriend (Russo), who’s become an executive at a huge corporation. The film is based on Immortality Inc. by author Robert Sheckley, and while it was a critical and box-office flop, it’s always been a favorite of mine.

As with any film set way in the future Freejack had a few ideas about what we’d all be doing in 2009; as well as painting a fairly grim portrait of the future it predicted the way technology would advance and how it would look. So, what did they get right and what did they get wrong? Here’s a quick check list!


Video Conference Calls: Hopkins and Russo contact each other with video conference calls, something that’s an everyday thing these days. Anyone with a computer and webcam can chat on Messenger or Skype, so score one for Freejack.

Global Economic Crisis: A standard thing in dystopian future films, but more prescient now than ever before. The huge schism in Freejack between rich and poor may be a little in-your-face, but it’s not far off correct.

Cars: We still drive, rather than say hover, in cars. While the elite drive unbelievably clunky and boxy futuristic limousines, the average Joe stills rocks a Dodge in this future.

The Internet: Not referenced by name, but there’s a global network that Jagger & Co use that almost resembles the online world.

Food: Anyone who’s seen Food Inc. or taken a look at the industry knows that processed food is basically crap. Estevez and his sleazy friend (played by New York Dolls singer David Johansen, aka Buster Poindexter) visit a café that serves almost unrecognizable slop. Anyone been to McDonalds recently?

Huge Faceless Corporations That Run The World Without Us Really Knowing: Not to come-off as a conspiracy nut or anything, but it’s fair to say that capitalism won.

Freedom Tower: This came out of left field. The giant McCandless Tower in Freejack looks very similar to the design of the New York Freedom Tower. Seriously, check it out if you don’t believe me.


The Spiritual Switchboard: Just silly, but it’s the McGuffin. While medical science may be advancing by leaps and bounds, it’ll be a while until our minds can be put on hold for 48 hours after death, and then transferred into human hosts. Hear that, Walt?

Laser Guns: It’s a damn shame, but so far the army/cops still use regular guns with bullets, I look outside and I see not a laser pistol or psi-blaster in sight… sigh…

Smart Drinks: Aside from Red Bull, our drinks remain staunchly un-futuristic. When Eztevez hides out in a nightclub called Industrial Revolution (which plays standard ‘futuristic’ music by, if memory serves both Skinny Puppy and Ministry), he’s given a strange blue, glowing drink which gets him high as a kite in seconds, as he slurs insults into a local news camera, giving himself away. I don’t know about you but last time I went into a bar, I ordered a beer.

Masked Vigilantes/Superheroes: One of the more memorable sequences in Freejack has John Shea bust into the above mentioned nightclub and start kicking ass, while dressed like one of the Mystery Men. Anyone who did this in our 2009 would be as openly mocked as somebody who wore Joker make-up to a Dark Knight screening.

The Sex Trade: While the oldest profession may be alive and well today, it’s still pretty much illegal to openly advertise yourself as a prostitute in the middle of the day in a busy street, let alone glue a huge pair of neon breasts to the front of your local brothel. In Freejack if you’re not a hooker, you’re looking for a hooker, or you’re shooting a hooker with a laser gun.

No Cell Phones: C’mon, nobody owns a mobile in 2009? I guess the production team was more excited by the whole Video Conference thing.

Time Travel: I almost forgot to mention this glaringly obvious one. Time travel is not, and most likely, will never be possible on the scale that it’s presented in Freejack. Sorry Trek fans…

I’ll be checking Freejack out tonight (on VHS!) so might update this if I notice anything on my eighth viewing since 1995. I’m pretty glad that we’ve managed to avoid the pitfalls of the worst dystopian future so far; but with the increase in private police forces, the huge cost of medical care, the raised profile of religion, tinkering with large hadron colliders, global warming and the inevitable power struggle between emerging superpowers… well, check back in another fifteen years I guess!

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UncleB (12 years ago) Reply

Emilio is the MOST underrated actor of the 20th century. He should have won an oscar for NewJack as well as a Noble peace prize for his work in the 1st or 2nd? mission impossible flick.


Anonymous (12 years ago) Reply

Great article! Please do more of this.


Spader (12 years ago) Reply

Ah Freejack... My old, dear friend.

I have fond memories of spending time in my school library with a schoolyard chum, reading and reading the same article on Freejack in some film encyclopedia or other.

Jagger's performance was described as "corpse like" and next to the article was a black and white image of Jagger in full Bonejacker gear, with sholderpads even Klaus Nomi would consider boorishly ostentatious.

We took to rubbing the image of Jagger's face - perhaps for luck, or for simply crude amusement. As the days, weeks, months, years went by the face became increasingly worn. So worn the image was no longer recognisable as Mick Jagger, just an eerie smudge with impeccable shoulder pads.

Halcyon days old friend, halcyon days...


agentorange (12 years ago) Reply

Ha ha, nice. Totally watching this tonight.


Chris R (12 years ago) Reply

I first became aware of this film when I saw a cinema poster for it in France in 1993, where it got quite a wide cinema release (ah, the French). I was 13 years old and stared in awe at the sheer 80's-ness of the visuals, feeling so sad that even by then they were terminally passe. It looked like the desperately poor man's Blade Runner after 10 years of poor man's Blade Runner rip offs. Then, to my horror, my brother (real, not street) bought it on VHS. I hope eh still has it 'cos I got an itch to check that baby out one more time... "Vacendak", I ask you!


Chad Law (12 years ago) Reply

Remember the trailer? With the brilliant and not so subtle use of "we want your Body, we want your body" by PIL. lol.


Phil (12 years ago) Reply

There's one other thing this movie got right: Emilio Estevez has been missing since 1993.

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