The trouble with low-rent science-fiction movies is that beneath all the futuristic gimcrackery — the video phones and laser guns and hyperspace leaps, the obligatory time-travel setups — you realize, at some point, that you’re watching a routine urban chase thriller: Lethal Weapon 2000. For most of its running time, Freejack bounces and sputters along atop the usual action- movie chassis. The film is about a champion race-car driver, Alex Furlong (Emilio Estevez), who is plucked into the future just at the moment he’s about to perish in an accident. He lands in New York City in the year 2009, only to learn that he’s a ”freejack” who has been transported there strictly for his body: It’s to become a receptacle for the personality of a certain wealthy — and deceased — individual whose mind is being kept in the Spiritual Switchboard (the metaphysical equivalent of cold storage).
Sounds freaky-deaky enough, but what the movie boils down to is: Emilio Estevez on the run in Junk City. An on-the-cheap mishmash of Blade Runner, RoboCop, and Total Recall, Freejack is one of those cheezoid sci-fi comic strips in which the lack of budget is so glaringly apparent that any attempt to camouflage it becomes downright touching. Most of the action takes place in ho-hum scuzzy alleyways or apartments done up in white-on-white Miami Vice modern. Usually, though, there’ll be one visual element per scene that screams, ”Futuristic!” For instance, in 2009 New York, the midtown streets are fairly unchanged — except that the cars are long, blobby things that look like customized Chinese dumplings. When Estevez enters a nightclub, the atmosphere is typically dank and industrial-except that the bartender hands him a drink the color of Windex. And so on.
But, hey, what about that cast? As the bounty hunter who’s hired to track down Estevez, Mick Jagger acts stony and impassive. He’s appealing to watch (even if it does look as if his face is starting to melt), but when will rock stars learn that, in front of the movie camera, it’s not enough to coast on aura. One must do as well as be. Anthony Hopkins pops up every half hour or so as a genial business tycoon who speaks to us from his video screen. As for Emilio ”The Gawker” Estevez, let’s just say his performance here isn’t going to spark any rumors of a Brat Pack revival. Freejack ends with a blast of kaleidoscopic effects-a sub-2001 light show meant to send us home feeling we’ve gotten our money’s worth. Even the future, as they say, isn’t what it used to be. C-