By Richard Winters
My Rating: 7 out of 10
4-Word Review: Where are the replicants?
The movie, based on the novel ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ by Phillip K. Dick, takes place in the year 2019 where human clones called replicants have been created and used basically as slave labor in off-world colonies. However, they create a mutiny and become a danger to the human race on Earth and are therefore banned from returning. If they do come back they are hunted down and killed by a special police force called Blade Runners. Rick Dekard (Harrison Ford) is one of those blade runners and is considered to be the best, but is burned out with his job. He is coaxed out of retirement when an especially dangerous group of replicants led by Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) escape and return to the planet.
On a visual level this film scores a bulls-eye and is nothing short of awe inspiring. You truly get the feeling that you have traveled to a whole different world. It’s a very complete and intricate vision that can make this movie enjoyable to watch in that area alone. Having it perpetually raining and gloomy helps add to the decayed nihilistic tone of the story. Although it takes place in futuristic city of Los Angeles one might actually think it is China due to the large number of Chinese ads on billboards and oriental people seen in the backdrop of scenes. I can only presume this was a Chinese neighborhood of the city, but I wasn’t sure why the action was placed there. Personally, I have no problem with it and it does help add an extra flavor to the proceedings, but I still felt it needed more of an explanation, which never came. Quite possibly this is something that is explained in the Dick novel, but for those that haven’t read it and are coming in brand new to it all it could prove just a bit confusing.
I really liked the story idea, but felt, like a lot of the critics did at the time, that the pacing is off. There is so much emphasis put on the style and atmosphere that at times it seems like the plot is almost forgotten. The scenes are stretched out much longer than in a typical action/sci-fi picture, which in some ways makes it interesting, but in another way it seems unnecessary. There really isn’t any action or excitement until almost an hour in and even then it goes by too quickly. Too much emphasis is put into Deckard’s relationship with Rachael (Sean Young) a replicant that doesn’t even know that she is one. There is no real chemistry between the two actors and the whole romantic angle came off as forced and contrived and bogged the whole thing down.
Ford is at his crusty best. Few people can play a sarcastic character like he does and still come off as engaging. I liked the ‘been there, done that’ attitude of the character, but found that his ability to handle the replicants seemed woefully lacking. They seem to be constantly taking him by surprise and then throwing him around like he is a ragdoll. Without the defense of his gun, which in one scene gets slapped out of his hand like it is nothing, he seems utterly even hopelessly ineffectual. There are several moments when he is about to be killed by them and is only saved when someone else comes to his rescue. You would think that if someone is as savvy and cocky as this character is portrayed and considered ‘the best’ by his superiors that he would have acquired some sort of fighting technique or better skill at handling them. Instead he looks like he is completely in over his head.
Having a typical gun as the only weapon seems pretty conventional and unimaginative. I would have thought in the future the technology in the weaponry department would be more advanced. A little more James Bond-like gadgetry would have made the fight scenes more interesting. Also, the technique at telling whether the person is human or a replicant is awfully archaic.
Hauer as the leader of the bad guys was a terrific casting choice. I can’t think of any other actor living or dead who was better suited for the part, but unfortunately he gets terribly underused in the process. He is seen only sporadically in the first hour and is not as menacing and terrifying as he should be. The final showdown between the two is good and makes great use of the moody lighting and Victorian-like background set, but ends up fizzling at the end.
I came away with mixed feelings on this one. On a technical end it verges on being brilliant, but in other areas it is lacking. The tension needed to be played up more, the confrontations needed more sizzle, and the hero needed to be more in control of the situation.
However, I really liked Daryl Hannah who has just the right blend of sexiness and evilness in her part. Brion James is good simply because he appears very benign, but then surprises the viewer with an unexpected and unannounced viciousness. You also got to love Joe Turkel and his very funky glasses.
My Rating: 7 out of 10
Released: June 25, 1982
Runtime: 1Hour 57Minutes
Director: Ridley Scott
Studio: Warner Brothers
Available: VHS, DVD, HDDVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video