Freejack (1992) | Sci-Fi Saturdays

by Jovial Jay

It’s not what you think! Unless your thought was “this is a bummer of a movie.”

Quick, name a sci-fi action film where a race car driver is transported to the future by the lead singer of The Rolling Stones so Hannibal Lector can take over his body. Did you say Freejack? Good, because I’d be scared if there was more than one of these!

First Impressions

The trailer for Freejack presents a dystopian, cyberpunk style future, where there’s a lot of action. Emilio Estevez is a racecar driver that dies in an accident but is transported to this future where Mick Jagger and Anthony Hopkins potentially run things. Jagger appears to be a military leader, while Hopkins exudes a tech entrepreneur vibe. The images are action-oriented with crashes, explosions, and fighting, while the voice over gives the impression that this is also a dangerous time for individuality. What is a freejack and why involve Estevez? Hop on, strap in, and let’s check it out.

Presented below is the trailer for the film.

Sci-Fi Saturdays


Freejack title card.

The Fiction of The Film

Alex Furlong (Emilio Estevez) is a professional racecar driver about to run his big race. He has a great girlfriend, Julie Redlund (Rene Russo), and a slimy manager, Brad Carter (David Johansen). As he attempts to overtake another driver, his car is catapulted into the overhead bridge and he is killed, supposedly. Twenty-eight years into the future, in 2009, a group of bonejackers (people hired to capture bodies from the past), led by Victor Vacendak (Mick Jagger) park a large medical vehicle in the exact same spot, and using some future technology grab Alex’s body from the timestream intending to lobotomize him. For some reason the sedation does not take and he escapes when the convoy is attacked by rebels.

Elsewhere at the McCandless Corporation, Mark Michelette (Jonathan Banks) reports that the “body” was lost to a cloaked and hooded holographic form. Someone who wants that body for themselves. The Spiritual Switchboard can only hold this individual for three days until they expire. Mark tells Victor how upset he is with him. Very, very upset. Alex runs to Julie’s apartment, but is shocked to find other people living there. He takes shelter in a church, where a nun (Amanda Plummer) holds a gun on him, until she realizes he is a freejack–an escaped host body that has been pulled forward in time for a mind/body transference.

Alex gets Brad’s address from the nun, along with a handgun, and finds his former manager living in a dump of an apartment. The 2009 New York City is a mess (more of a mess than IRL 2009 NYC) with many people living in squalor, filthy streets that have gun fights happening in broad daylight, and hookers propositioning people on every corner. Brad explains what must have happened to Alex. Since he was going to die anyway, he was brought to the future. They can’t use people from this time because of the pollution. He says he’ll help Alex, but instead calls the authorities on him before getting shot.


David Johansen, also known as Buster Poindexter, plays Alex’s smarmy manager. From the moment he first appears, it’s obvious he can’t be trusted.

Julie, who is now an Executive VP for McCandless, speaks with Ian “Mac” McCandless (Anthony Hopkins) who says he’s in Sydney and will return tomorrow. Alex finds her address and breaks into her apartment to get her help. She doesn’t believe it’s him, since he was killed 18 years ago, and believes it’s someone else in his body. Victor, being a good bonejacker, tracks Alex to Julie’s apartment and chases him through the streets of the city. Alex has fled in a stolen liquor delivery truck. After a Mad Max-like chase Alex jumps out of his vehicle and into the river losing the Security detail. Julie has second thoughts after seeing the chase and she and her driver, Boone (Grand L Bush) find Alex at a homeless camp.

She explains that she doesn’t know who ordered the bonejacking, but it doesn’t matter since freejacks have no rights anyway and are legally owned by others. Mark sends out his goons to look for Alex, and find the nun. He gets the information from her and has his squad converge on Alex’s hiding location just as Victor’s squad shows up. Alex saves Victor from being shot, and the bonejacker then gives Alex an honorable five minute head start, after telling him Ian McCandless is the man he’s looking for. At the McCandless Corporation, Alex holds Julie “hostage” to gain entrance, but Mark is too smart for that. He’s seen the tapes of them together from 18 years ago. But Mark is not trying to help Mac. He wants to kill Alex and let McCandless’ time elapse in the Spiritual Switchboard so he can take over the company.

In the transfer room, Mac speaks to Julie via hologram and confesses he loves her, and him in Alex’s body was to be a surprise. Victor arrives and puts Alex into the interface to make the transfer. Mark finds them, and Julie uses the distraction to shoot the interface crystal. Alex claims to now be Mac, and recites his personal identifier, which Victor confirms. Later Alex and Julie take the car out for a drive when Victor stops them. He admits he lied when Alex said the number, and has now caught them because Mac doesn’t know how to drive a car. Victor lets them go, warning Julie to “teach him better” how to pretend to be Mac. Everybody lives happily ever after.

You don’t need a new body. You need a new soul. And you don’t have a machine that will give you that.” – Alex Furlong


For a generally horrible future, there are still some pockets where the “haves” are able to stretch their legs without the “have nots” getting in their way.

History in the Making

Freejack was directed by New Zealand director Geoff Murphy. He had made about five films in his native country before coming to the United States and directing Young Guns II, which he made just prior to Freejack. His future projects would include the mediocre Under Siege 2: Dark Territory and Fortress 2: Re-Entry before working as a second unit director on The Lord of the Rings trilogy. For this film he collected quite a mix of actors. It was the first leading man role for Estevez, who had had a number of ensemble pictures (including the two Young Guns films) as well as a recent co-starring role with his brother Charlie Sheen in Men At Work. This was his second sci-fi film following the cult favorite Repo Man. Jagger, known mostly as the lead singer of The Rolling Stones, had dabbled in film since 1970, having had a couple starring roles. For Russo, this was her only sci-fi film having previously played the love interests of Tom Berringer in Major League and Michael Keaton in One Good Cop. Hopkins, who had (and still has) a storied career as a dramatic actor–having just won a Best Actor Oscar for The Silence of the Lambs, remarkably chooses to do this film as his follow-up. Coincidentally, Hopkins would reunite with Russo  in 2010, playing an on-screen husband and wife in Marvel Studios Thor.

Given the varied levels and histories of the above actors, it might be surprising that the film is somewhat erratic. Somewhat? What I meant to say was “all over the place.” For starters, the character of Alex has no arc in this film whatsoever. He is a commodity that is chased and pursued. He starts the fim in love with his girlfriend and a cocky SOB, and ends the film pretending to be a rich billionaire, in love with his girlfriend and a cocky SOB. Julie at least finds a way to get on with her life after Alex’s death–by becoming the Executive Vice President of a giant mega-corporation. It’s the largest corporation in the world and owns everything according to Brad, so good for her. Hopkins is only in the film for a few short minutes at the end, excluding a couple of quick Skype calls to Julie with obvious replacement backgrounds. Who’s he think he’s fooling? Freejack plays coy about who is behind the capture of Alex. Maybe it’s Mark, it wants you to think, but it’s obviously McCandless who is already dead. The supporting roles for Jonathan Banks, David Johansen, Amanda Plummer and Grand L Bush are more fun than they deserve to be, oftentimes upstaging the stars of the film. Finally there’s Mick Jagger’s Victor, who is supposedly this cool and badass bonejacker. Unfortunately his acting skills come off as if he’s reading these lines for the first time. There’s no emotion in anything he says, and every moment feels deadpanned. Even the ones that are meant to be warm. It’s such a dramatic disaster!


The only way bodies can be plucked from the past is if they know exactly when and where the death occurs. Here Alex is shown crashing into a 15 foot tall bridge abutment at the racetrack (don’t ask).


OK, so the acting is not great, and the characters are not worthy of some of the talent the film brings in. But there’s a lot of sci-fi films that have questionable casting or plots, but really nail the science-fiction elements. Maybe Freejack is one of those? Let’s start with the future. Freejack used “future starter pack 101” to create their world. Besides the basic and obvious “dystopian future” where there are dirty streets, violence, Safety Zones and Unsecured Sectors, and lots of poor people, the world is also missing its ozone layer. People are getting poisoned by the land, seas and sky, which is why the bonejackers steal bodies from the past. This makes Millennium looks like a genius film for having its basic premise stolen! Just a reminder that there’s only an 18 year difference between Alex’s timeline and this future. So besides the rapid decline of the environment, there was a Trade War that the United States lost, a Ten-Year Depression, and the obvious invention of time travel, a holographic internet, the Spiritual Switchboard and mind/body transference.

While you’re taking all that in, let’s review the time travel elements of the film. It is the defining sci-fi characteristic after all. People are brought from the past into this future because they have better bodies that aren’t already sick. Rich people pay to have them captured seconds before their death. No real explanation of why, except the obvious reason which would be, they’re gonna die anyway. These rich people then annihilate the freejacks mind and transfer their mind and consciousness into the body and then can walk around, supposedly forever repeating this procedure. Basically they become immortal. Except, at some point in the short 18 years between Alex’s death and the death of McCandless, the world starts to go to hell. At some point, humans from the past will no longer be viable. So why not go back further into the past? Well the technology shown makes it seem as if they need to know exactly when and where (and how) someone dies so the medical chamber can be put in the exact same spot. This is time travel, not time and space travel. They needed to raise the pod up to the height of the overpass that Alex hit in order to retrieve his body, so the assumption is that airline crashes are out of the question (save those for the people from Millennium to grab). They would only be able to grab people dying in very high visibility ways as well, since those are probably the ones that they have recordings and documentation of. Additionally, who else is taking advantage of this technology besides McCandless? But I’ll get to that shortly.


Jonathan Banks plays his usual a-hole character. He is great. Rene Russo is also in the film.

Societal Commentary

It’s obvious that the screenwriters of Freejack were trying to make the future look both futuristic and less desirable than the world of 1991. They created the worst aspects of the modern world, while building some of the coolest technology. It’s difficult to figure out how the world got into such a mess (if it is the world and not just the United States–we only ever see New York City after all). But the trade wars and the depressions and the corporate greed ended up widening the already sizable gap between rich and poor. Julie explains that economics are different now. “There’s people at the top, there’s people at the bottom. There’s no one in between.” The destruction of the middle class, which is an effect that is even more exacerbated in 2022 than it was in 1991 (or the “future” 2009), creates a perpetual squalor for the worst off. There would no longer be a one-percent. It would be more like the 1% of the one-percent, and 99% poor people, which has to make audiences wonder how anything is accomplished in this world. Alex also learns that there’s no rights for Freejacks. Which kind of makes sense. These are people that would legally be dead, in the future that is. So the rich can do what they want with them, which is how the uber-rich treat everybody else already, right?. This seems like a horrible problem, but is this really even an issue for anyone but Alex? It sounds like there are laws for this sort of thing, but are rich people bonejacking bodies from the past all over the place? And if so, wouldn’t the harvesting of the past by multiple individuals use up available bodies quicker?


The digital Ian McCandless interacts physically with Alex and Julie in this bizarre cyberpunk/virtual reality moment. He uses the technology to hit on Alex’s girlfriend. Awkward!

The Science in The Fiction

Which brings me back to this important question, just who is the Spiritual Switchboard built for? The nun indicates that it’s for rich people to use after they purchase a body from the past. But there’s also no indication that anyone else has access to it except for McCandless. It’s located at the tippy-top of his giant skyscraper in future Manhattan. There’s no mention that anyone else has used it. No indication that other subjects are currently walking around in new freejack suits. Nothing. If McCandless really is the biggest company in the world and owners of most everything (and not just hyperbole by Brad) then would there be anyone else to use it? McCandless is negotiating mineral rights with the Japanese and “traveling” to Sydney to broker deals. It seems like there’s only him. And as mentioned above, immortality would be fleeting since at some point the bodies would run out. Just think about all the brain power needed to create these wonderful and amazing technologies, instead of putting the effort into fixing the planet or closing the disparity between the rich and poor. Maybe that was the real goal for Freejack. Besides being short-sighted and creating a world altering issue, but with a small, intimate cast, they also created a future that was so one-sided and appalling that it should make audiences think more about these issues. Unfortunately, I doubt if anyone ever put that much thought into this film, let alone 2,600 words.


Alex battles Mac for control of his body on a giant electrically charged Jack (like from the game, jacks. That’s totally what it looks like!) Winner gets Emilio.

The Final Frontier

Freejack was based on a 1959 novel by Robert Sheckley called Immortality, Inc. It’s actually only loosely based on the book, since the premise of the novel includes a man from 1958 having his consciousness transferred into a body in 2110, rather than people in a near-future grabbing bodies from the past. The story was also adapted into a BBC show from the late 60s of which no copies survive. For those wishing to partake of this story, the novel is probably the best way to go. The film is about as uneven as a film can get. It has a definite point of view, but it feels one sided, hamstrung by boring action sequences and bad acting. By the end of the film, audiences really don’t care if Alex has been taken over by Mac or not. They’re just wishing it was over. The best elements of this are still some of the bit parts. Amanda Plummer as the nun saying she should turn the other cheek before wailing Jonathan Banks in the groin with her foot. Grand L Bush being his usually cool self. A pre-Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul Jonathan Banks doing his best and usually 80s henchman duty. In the end, Freejack will never truly be free until it realizes what it really is. Hopefully someone in the future can figure out what that is.

Coming Next

Universal Soldier

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