July 6, 2012

Blade Runner (1982)
Grade: 49/100

Director: Ridley Scott
Stars: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young

What it's about. Set in Los Angeles in the year 2019. Glum-faced Harrison Ford is a hitman whose target is replicants, which are engineered super-humans with a four-year lifespan. Replicants are illegal on Earth due to their murderous ways. Four of them have arrived in an attempt to locate their maker, Tyrell (Joe Turkel), and force him to extend their lifespan.

The quartet are ice-cool Rutger Hauer, exotic dancer Zhora (Joanna Cassidy), wide-eyed Daryl Hannah, and ugly mug Brion James. Ford kills them all one by one, leaving the most sinister and dangerous for last. Hauer seems to think it is a horror movie since his apparent plan is to scare Ford to death, which isn't possible since it is hinted that Ford is also a replicant. Although he isn't.

Interesting faces within the cast include Edward James Olmos as a fellow replicant hitman, M. Emmet Walsh as a bossman, William Sanderson as as Tyrell's go-between, and James Hong as an eye maker for replicants.

How others will see it. Blade Runner drew mixed critical reviews and about broke even during its initial box office run. It was nominated for eight BAFTA awards and two Oscars, primarily in technical categories, though it did win at BAFTA for Jordan Cronenweth's cinematography. The movie has generated an ever-growing cult following over the years, though there has yet to be a sequel.

Today at imdb.com, the user vote total is an impressive 250K and the average vote of 8.3 is enough to place the film well within that website's Top 250. Surprisingly, younger and older audiences like it equally, though a moderate gender gap ensues over age 45, where men give it an 8.5 while women award it 7.8. One has to wonder whether women over 45 would like it as much if Sean Young's character was absent. Methinks not. Note to science-fiction directors: always add a routine romantic subplot pairing the heroic male lead with a gorgeous woman who loves him for no obvious reason.

How I felt about it. The first problem I have with Blade Runner is its casting. The actors are chosen for their appearance rather than their ability to deliver strong performances. This is especially the case for beautiful but dull Sean Young and the always weird Rutger Hauer. Blonde goddess Daryl Hannah here looks like Melanie Griffith made up like a circus performer, and consequential supporting roles are rounded out with strange-looking character actors.

More significant, though, is the implausibility of the plot. We would not have 'lone wolves' like Ford hunting down teams of replicants by himself. He has almost no chance to succeed, and is able to do so only because it is a movie. Instead, there would be a SWAT team after the replicants, and they would have special equipment with them rather than simply a handgun.

It seems ridiculous that replicants would have only a four year lifespan given the cost that goes into making them. Instead, there would be remote ability to kill them at any given moment on Earth via satellite, which would greatly simplify any problem of stopping them cold.

The replicants aren't very good at surviving. Again and again, they have Ford on the ropes but let him live long enough to get the upper hand. We find it amazing that when Ford tracks down Zhora in public, Leon happens to be there, and when Leon is about to kill Ford, Sean Young is there, and kills Leon. Why? Because she is in love with Ford? Why would she be? She met him once.

Tyrell has a luxury apartment but no bodyguards? He shows no fear of Hauer until he is being murdered? Hauer just happens to die just minutes after confronting Ford and demonstrating his great physical strength?

Besides the plot implausibilities, there's the matter of the replicants themselves. They are completely organic and live for only four years. Therefore, they are created as young adults. This doesn't seem possible. If they organic, it would take them twenty years to mature, both physically and mentally. They would have to be educated, which would also take years. If they are organic, the lifespan would exceed four years. You can't just put them together like a pizza, particularly as early as 2019.

My conclusion is that the movie is mostly bogus. Ford's deadpan competence is all it has going for it.