The film is set in the near future, where robots are commonplace—a part of everyday life like any other electrical appliance—and are just as prone to malfunctions. But when a robot malfunctions, it could pose a threat to people or property. Such robots are known as “runaways.” Since they are more dangerous than the average machine, they are handled by a division of the police trained in robotics. The “runaway” squad, however, is treated as an easy and unexciting assignment and often ridiculed.
Sgt. Jack R. Ramsay (Selleck) is a veteran police officer who joined the runaway squad after discovering his previously unknown fear of heights, which resulted in a family’s death at the hands of a man he let escape. After years on the job, Ramsay has found himself one of the division’s few real experts. His new partner Karen Thompson (Rhodes) is enthusiastic about the job, but he assures her there is little excitement involved, saying that mostly it involves flipping a switch.
This changes when they find themselves handling a new threat—the first robotic homicide. Investigating a household robot that murdered a family with a kitchen knife and handgun, Jack discovers strange integrated circuits, which not only override a robot’s safety features but also direct it to attack humans. These circuits are not hacked chips, but created from a series of master templates, enabling them to be mass-produced.
Despite being unable to learn anything from uncooperative informants who end up dead, Ramsay refuses to give up and soon discovers the perpetrator is sociopathic genius Dr. Charles Luther (Simmons). Luther, while working for a defense contractor, developed a program that allows a robot to thermographically identify a human from amidst cover and to even differentiate between humans.
Seeing the profit potential, he killed his fellow researchers and tried to sell the technology on the black market. After a botched arrest attempt, Thompson is left with an unexploded shell in her arm which Ramsay removes. From the extracted shell, they also learn about another of Luther’s weapons, smart bullets: miniature heat seeking missiles that lock onto a human target’s unique heat signature, pursuing them wherever they run, even around corners.
Runaway is a 1984 American science fiction action film starring Tom Selleck, Cynthia Rhodes, Gene Simmons, Stan Shaw, Joey Cramer, Anne-Marie Martin, Elizabeth Norment and features Kirstie Alley in one of her early roles.
Directed by: Michael Crichton
Starring: Tom Selleck, Cynthia Rhodes, Gene Simmons, Kirstie Alley, Stan Shaw, Joey Cramer, Anne-Marie Martin, Elizabeth Norment
Screenplay by: Michael Crichton
Production Design by: Douglas Higgins
Cinematography by: John A. Alonzo
Film Editing by: Glenn Farr
Costume Design by: Betsy Cox
Set Decoration by: Jim Erickson
Art Direction by: Michael S. Bolton
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Distributed by: TriStar Pictures
Release Date: December 14, 1984