Dr Larry Roberts (Albert Finney) is an LA plastic surgeon whose patients, several models; suddenly start to fall off balconies. Fearing that it's catching, he enlists the help of Cindy (Susan Dey - The Partridge Family) the next model on the hit-list and discovers Digital Matrix Inc and their odd technology.
The models want the surgery to make them millimetre perfect so that they can be scanned and computer generated by Digital Matrix to improve the effectiveness of TV advertising. This of course, means that they must be murdered otherwise there would be no story. Digital Matrix have been busy and created a pulsing light gun that sends the victim into a trance-like state - aiding the killing. This leads to a number of mildly amusing encounters, including a flashing car chase. The film is often tongue-in-cheek, with an effective level of suspense that's let down by a naff final shoot-out on an automatically moving, person-less set used to create the adverts. Roberts is the number one suspect in an investigation into the deaths, thanks to some deftly planted evidence by Digital Matrix's moustachioed odd job man.
As a director, Michael Crichton's films can lack pacing and this isn't an exception. The promising cast includes James Coburn and Leigh Taylor-Young (Soylent Green) who are behind Digital Matrix. The limp direction however, sees them uttering bland dialogue and the whole thing seems like an episode of 'Dynasty' at times. Finney adds a professional element, but feels mis-cast as soon as the action scenes turn up. The DVD version runs at 93 minutes, due to some judicious editing to try and tighten things up. This only adds to the lack of explanation.
This isn't to say it's a bad film. The overall plot and look of the film is great, as long as you don't keep whining "why?" and accept it. The computer graphics of the scanning process are surprisingly good and cutting-edge for the time. Crichton can write solid science fiction for the screen (Andromeda Strain, Westworld, Terminal Man, Jurassic Park) and is a real visionary. He just doesn't bring anything to the direction. Looker is an easy film to enjoy and an obvious target for a re-make. Fine 80's music by Barry DeVorzon.
By far the best thing about this one is the weird last ten minutes with the shootout in the "virtual reality" ad studio, which is absolutely hilarious and almost totally out of keeping with the rest of the film. But I'm glad they did it, it really brightens up that finale. "Aw gee, mom, do we have to have the same thing for breakfast every morning?!"