I think it strange to find a movie that I know nothing about. Seriously. I own quite few, have seen more than most people I know, and have heard about even more than that. I used to run this drill with myself (and this will date me) back when I worked in the mall when Suncoast Motion Picture Store was in business therein. Anybody remember those banks of TVs they had in the front window? Well, I would walk by them every day on my way to or from lunch. They say it takes 6 seconds to walk by a store front. I gave myself those 6 seconds to identify the film that was showing. If I couldn’t identify it, I had to walk in and ask the employees what movie that was. (I succeeded more often than not.)
A couple of months ago, my wife was talking about this movie and I had no idea what she was talking about. I mean nothing registered with me. Even worse, she told me who was in it and that it was kind of a science fiction movie. Still, I had nothing. Albert Finney? Yep, I know him. Susan Dey? Yep, I know her too. James Coburn? Yep, that name is even more familiar. The title “Looker”? I had never heard of it. I was so confounded that she had to find a trailer for it online and show me. I was still baffled! Long story short, we bought it.
“Looker” is an early 80s science fiction tale involving a plastic surgeon who investigates the mysterious deaths of these perfect models who have been showing up dead. The clues point the police toward the plastic surgeon. Doesn’t that sound like a typical 80s plotline? It’s weird because you would NEVER see that kind of storyline today, but back in the 80s it was common to have a DJ, a fireman, or even a plastic surgeon be the hero of you movie. So, in that light, Albert Finney as the heroic plastic surgeon main character was really refreshing to watch. Yes, it was typical of the 80s, but it was nice to see some different send up of what could have been a really dull premise. Can you believe this is a film written & DIRECTED by Michael Crichton???? Yep, it is 100% true!
That’s the thing about “Looker” that grabbed me. It was kind of cheesy in one light, but really I kept thinking the movie could be remade today and made into one heck of a film! The fashions are a bit off, obviously. The cars look antiquated. There’s gratuitous nudity in the film – again, typical of the 80s. The movie even had its own VERY 80s theme song! The special effects weren’t all that bad, and the film really holds up well in that department after this much time. (A note to all filmmakers out there: less is more and this film is proof that it works.) The story though was pretty terrific. A little technology serves as the true villain of the story, and once more I am impressed that the 80s were so thoughtful of the potential danger of technology (see my review of “Tron”).
Imagine: a light beam that temporarily hypnotizes you, giving the illusion of activity around you becoming invisible. I liken it more to seem as though time stopped momentarily. What a great concept! There were a lot of tech gadgets in the 80s films that did something pretty interesting that some corporate suit was manipulating into some evil scheme (usually involving a sale to the military which would result in HUGE profits). I have to admit though that I had never heard of this one! It was a pretty simple concept, and actually much more believable than say a time machine made from a Delorean.
The film might be mocking TV commercial advertising and exaggerating the impact it had on people, but it really isn’t too far off the mark when you stop to think about it. It makes a pretty excellent point about how materialistic our society has become. THAT is still true today, if not even more so now than in the 80s. I would be completely remiss if I didn’t address the models in the film. The film features these models who are working models that come in to get precise – and we are talking to the tenths of a millimeter – plastic surgical changes to their faces. That must have been Crichton’s want to address the ludicrous nature of society’s obsession with beauty. Still, it is a really compelling element of the film. I sat their thinking “this film is actually pretty darned brilliant”!
I have to say, that I am on an 80s kick here lately and it makes me very aware of the complete garbage out there today. I would say that nearly 90% of all films made today are utter garbage. Think about the last GREAT film you saw. Ten to one, it was either part of the Harry Potter franchise, the Lord of the Rings franchise, a film directed by Clint Eastwood, or a very, VERY rare film (like “Slumdog Millionaire”). Maybe I’ve become cynical, but there are so many films that muster about as much fan-thusiasm as a t-shirt featuring Bart Simpson. It’s not that it’s bad; it’s just so over-done. Even if you never saw the film, you could look at half of what is out there and say “eh” and that would be an adequate review.
“Looker” is indeed worth the watch, and you won’t find it in a Netflix box at the super market either. It is so very nice to see a fine actor like Albert Finney in a surprising role like this. I bought it completely! Susan Dey was spot-on for the role of a model. She didn’t over-do it, and she acted well enough for you to believe in her as a model. Surprise again, she really can act and in one scene she really gets into it! It was in a word: refreshing. I was just so pleasantly surprised by this film that I merrily recommend this film to anybody with a mild interest in an engaging story that I would bet you have never seen before either. Bring on the 80s once more!
…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE.
- Brainstorm (reelvoice2013.wordpress.com)