A blend of science fiction and noir detective fiction, Blade Runner (1982) was a box office and critical bust upon its initial exhibition, but its unique postmodern production design became hugely influential within the sci-fi genre, and the film gained a significant cult following that increased its stature.
Harrison Ford stars as Rick Deckard, a retired cop in Los Angeles circa 2019. L.A. has become a pan-cultural dystopia of corporate advertising, pollution and flying automobiles, as well as replicants, human-like androids with short life spans built by the Tyrell Corporation for use in dangerous off-world colonization. Deckard's former job in the police department was as a talented blade runner, a euphemism for detectives that hunt down and assassinate rogue replicants.
Called before his one-time superior (M. Emmett Walsh), Deckard is forced back into active duty. A quartet of replicants led by Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) has escaped and headed to Earth, killing several humans in the process. After meeting with the eccentric Eldon Tyrell (Joe Turkel), creator of the replicants, Deckard finds and eliminates Zhora (Joanna Cassidy), one of his targets.
Attacked by another replicant, Leon (Brion James), Deckard is about to be killed when he's saved by Rachael (Sean Young), Tyrell's assistant and a replicant who's unaware of her true nature. In the meantime, Batty and his replicant pleasure model lover, Pris (Darryl Hannah) use a dying inventor, J.F. Sebastian (William Sanderson) to get close to Tyrell and murder him. Deckard tracks the pair to Sebastian's, where a bloody and violent final confrontation between Deckard and Batty takes place on a skyscraper rooftop high above the city.
In 1992, Ridley Scott released a popular director's cut that removed Deckard's narration, added a dream sequence, and excised a happy ending imposed by the results of test screenings; these legendary behind-the-scenes battles were chronicled in a 1996 tome, Futu
When Ridley Scott's cut of Blade Runner
was finally released in 1993, one had to wonder why the studio hadn't done it right the first time--11 years earlier. This version is so much better, mostly because of what's been eliminated (the ludicrous and redundant voice-over narration and the phony happy ending) rather than what's been added (a bit more character development and a brief unicorn dream). Star Harrison Ford originally recorded the narration under duress at the insistence of Warner Bros. executives who thought the story needed further "explanation"; he later confessed that he thought if he did it badly they wouldn't use it. (Moral: Never overestimate the taste of movie executives.) The movie's spectacular futuristic vision of Los Angeles--a perpetually dark and rainy metropolis that's the nightmare antithesis of "Sunny Southern California"--is still its most seductive feature, an otherworldly atmosphere in which you can immerse yourself. The movie's shadowy visual style, along with its classic private-detective/murder-mystery plot line (with Ford on the trail of a murderous android, or "replicant"), makes Blade Runner
one of the few science fiction pictures to legitimately claim a place in the film noir tradition. And, as in the best noir, the sleuth discovers a whole lot more (about himself and the people he encounters) than he anticipates.... With Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, Daryl Hannah, Rutger Hauer, and M. Emmet Walsh. --Jim Emerson