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"Blade Runner" is a beautiful dystopian nightmare

Starring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, M. Emmet Walsh, Daryl Hannah, Joanna Cassidy, Joe Turkel. Written by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples. Directed by Ridley Scott. Streaming on Starz. 117 minutes. 14A

Blade Runner


Ridley Scott’s "Blade Runner" is now such a totem of science fiction — many films have referenced its distressed urban production design — that it’s easy to forget it was something of an outcast when it arrived.

Based on the Philip K. Dick short story “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?,” it stars Harrison Ford as depressed and alcoholic cop Rick Deckard, who specializes in killing errant androids. He’s a “blade runner” in screen argot.

Presenting a bleak vision of Los Angeles in 2019, a soggy hellhole of crime, overcrowding and vicious android “replicants,” the film is considered a modern sci-fi masterpiece. But that wasn’t the prevailing critical view when was released in 1982.

Gene Siskel bluntly panned it as “a waste of time.” A slightly sunnier Roger Ebert called it “a great movie to look at, but a hard one to care about.” Pauline Kael complained that "Blade Runner" “forces passivity on you.”

It wasn’t just critics who carped. My father-in-law, Ted, a frequent movie companion at the time, was furious at me for taking him to see a film that bored and confused him.

Siskel and Ebert later recanted their opinions of the film, but I needed no second consideration to fully embrace it. I loved the cool future noir look of "Blade Runner"’ and its cynical foresight into city life in the 21st century.

The film features cutting-edge special effects from one of cinema’s greatest visual wizards, Douglas Trumbull,

who earlier had done "2001: A Space Odyssey" and later would work on "The Tree of Life."

There are many shocks in "Blade Runner," but the biggest ones roll from its prescience: as the magnificent score by Vangelis alternately booms and whispers in the background, we are whisked to a bloodshot vision of a metropolis plagued by globalization, climate change and “Cityspeak” that now seems far less speculative and alarmist than it did three decades ago.

The Oscar-winning set design is so detailed it even features the rates for parking meters: one minute for $3, which seemed a lot more shocking in ’82.

Deckard’s tale help paved the way for blockbuster sci-fi action thrillers — and if it’s action you’re after, track down the longer international cut of the film, featuring extended violence that doesn’t flinch from the blood-spurting, body-twitching gruesomeness of Scott’s bleakly beautiful creation.

(From "Movies I Can't Live Without," by Peter Howell.)

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