Body-snatchers from the future seems like a can’t-lose concept for a movie, but that’s not the case with Freejack, which somehow manages to be both utterly silly and yet nearly devoid of fun. But there is one big reason it’s worth a rewatch: Mick Jagger’s intensely insane performance.
Freejack came out in 1992, but most of it is set in 2009. In this grimy vision of the future, notable technological advances include doors that open when you say “door,” and the ability to zap back in time to snatch robustly healthy people from the past, so that dying right people in the future can appropriate their bodies.
Emilio Estevez’s character, race-car driver Alex Furlong, is targeted by a bounty hunter named Vacendak, played with smirking delight by Mick Jagger. Aside from too-brief turns by Amanda Plummer, as a badass nun, and a sleazy David Johansen, he’s the only person in the movie who is having a good time. (That includes Anthony Hopkins, in his peak Silence of the Lambs and Howard’s End era, who literally phones in most of his scenes).
Jagger’s performance is a master class demonstrating the “I know I’m in a crappy movie, even if nobody else around me does” technique.
Part of this is due to the fact that he’s first and foremost a rock star who can do literally whatever he wants in his spare time. Play the baddie in a science fiction flick that’s essentially one big long ridiculous chase scene, as a professional “bonejacker” (snicker) fond of corny one-liners? Sure, why the hell not?
In this Entertainment Tonight interview timed to the film’s release, he discusses his “spur-of-the-moment” decision to take on his first film role in decades:
Right now I’m working on a solo album project, just before that started they said, “Would you like to do this feature?” I said, “Let me see.” And they said, “Well, we’ve got to know by next week ,because it starts shooting in three weeks.” So I said, “Okay. I’ll do it.” [If I’d had] six months to think about it, I probably would have turned it down, and said, “Oh no, it’s not quite the one I want.”
That’s not a lot of prep time—but Jagger clearly didn’t need it. He just kind of plops his character’s helmet on, plugs into adversary mode, and coasts on his trademark charisma throughout. And Vacendak doesn’t even end up as the true villain of the movie; he’s just a guy tryin’ to do a job, and his grudging admiration for Furlong means he ends up helping the guy escape in the end.
Most stunningly, even though the script has Jagger intoning lines like “GET THE MEAT!” (in reference to Furlong’s sought-after flesh), he escapes this turkey completely unscathed. (The New York Times said in its review at the time: “Mr. Jagger, managing to combine a sneer and a monotone, and revealing only the occasional flash of humor, is fun to watch but lucky to have other employment.”)
Estevez and Freejack director Geoff Murphy, who’d previously worked on Young Guns II together, wouldn’t fare so well; Freejack was the last movie Estevez made before coasting into the Mighty Ducks phase of his career, while Murphy soon left Hollywood for his native New Zealand, where he served as second-unit director on the Lord of the Rings movies.