Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 19, 2007)
For a somewhat early effort from science fiction giant Michael Crichton, we visit 1981ís Looker. We meet hotshot plastic surgeon Dr. Larry Roberts (Albert Finney). He works on the rich and mighty as well as insanely insecure actresses who desire absolute physical perfection. In the latter category comes Lisa Convey (Terri Welles), a blonde bombshell who comes in with a list of miniscule modifications. While she waits for a date, some mysterious creep (Tim Rossovich) comes into her apartment and creates a situation that causes her to plummet off of her balcony.
When another patient of Robertsí also ends up deceased, police Lt. Masters (Dorian Harewood) comes to chat with the doctor. He implies the cops suspect Roberts, and we quickly surmise someoneís attempting to frame the doctor. Matters get even weirder when patients start to worry that theyíre too physically perfect and thatís whatís getting these women killed, and Roberts finds himself implicated in another murder.
In an attempt to dig into connections among the dead women, Roberts pursues another of his clients: Cindy Fairmont (Susan Dey). Sheís been involved with a group called Digital Matrix, and they seem suspicious to Roberts. The rest of the movie follows their pairing and attempts to solve the mystery while the also stay alive.
Back in 1981, Looker was a movie on the technological edge, as its science fiction seemed far-fetched. It proved surprisingly prescient, however, as many of its seemingly ludicrous concepts have become fact in the last 25-plus years. We can see a lot of modern concepts on display in this effort.
This means that the film appears dated and appropriate all at once. To my surprise, the technology displayed doesnít age the movie as much as Iíd expect. Sure, the computer material looks quaint, but itís not the distraction Iíd anticipate. The general early Eighties feel of the flick is a different matter, though, as it can create some distance between the viewer and the story; it just becomes hard to accept such technical sophistication in a world like this.
Nonetheless, Looker deserves credit as a film that anticipated trends in computer visuals as well as plastic surgery. Does that mean it soars as a film? No, for while it entertains in a rudimentary way, it remains more memorable as a piece of scientific prediction than as an actual movie.
Many of the problems stem from the coherence of the story. To say the least, the tale doesnít flow particularly well. It jumps around with some abandon and never manages to mesh together in a concise manner. Some devices feel tacked on and pointless, while others appear with too much convenience to make sense.
The general ambition of the story never coalesces either. The film hints at very sinister motives for the computer technology but never delivers on them. It canít decide if it wants to turn into a scary thriller or if it prefers to be a basic mystery tale. These elements balance awkwardly and donít come together in a satisfactory way.
This means we just wait until the inevitable ending. Without question, Looker comes with a predictable conclusion, and it doesnít make the ride to get there especially memorable. The film offers a moderately intriguing tale with just enough panache to keep us occupied. It canít do more than that, unfortunately.
Trivia note: if you look closely, youíll find Vanna White in the flick as an extra.