Someone is murdering models and trying to frame Larry Roberts (Albert Finney), a plastic surgeon. Larry suspects that the actual murderer is somehow involved with the Digital Matrix research firm, a shadowy organization that is headed by James Coburn and Leigh Taylor Young. Digital Matrix has developed a new technique where they digitally scan a model’s body and then generate a 3-D duplicate that can be used in commercials and on film. The real-life models stand to make a fortune from the royalties, assuming that they are physically perfect and they do not end up getting murdered immediately after being scanned. Larry’s girlfriend, Cindy (Susan Dey), is just the latest model to have been scanned and now Larry suspects that she might be targeted for death as well.
When I was growing up, Looker was one of those movies that always seemed to be on HBO. I don’t know why this box office bomb was so popular on cable but I do remember seeing it several times. I guarantee you that anyone who has ever came across this movie on HBO in the 80s and 90s will remember it. They might not remember the title but they will remember that the bad guys used light guns that would cause people to briefly go into a catatonic state. Everyone who has ever seen this movie remembers the model standing frozen in the doorway of her apartment.
As for the movie itself, the guns are cool and so is the scene where Susan Dey gets scanned but otherwise, Looker is not very good. Michael Crichton later said that he had conflicts with Warner Bros during the editing of Looker and, as a result, there were some important scenes that did not make it into the final cut. For instance, it is never really explained why the models are being killed. Albert Finney was in one of his periodic career slumps when he starred as Larry and he looks uncomfortable going through the motions of being an action star. Two years after Looker came out, Finney’s career would be reinvigorated when he received an Oscar nomination for The Dresser and three years later, he would give his career best performance in Under the Volcano.
As it typical of Michael Crichton’s work, Looker was ahead of its time in predicting the use of CGI in media but otherwise, it’s nothing special. If you want to see a good Crichton-directed film, stick with Westworld and The Great Train Robbery.