Rick Deckard from Ridley Scott's Blade Runner is a classic example of an anti-hero. Remember that scene from the movie when he is hanging from a roof beam in the driving rain, bloody-nosed, outgunned, outclassed, and the only thing that is standing between him and the fall to a certain death is someone who has every right to hate his guts?
That scene is emblematic of him. Throughout the movie he is beaten, pushed around, bullied. Although he is reputedly a competent bounty hunter - or blade runner - on several occasions he finds himself outmaneuvered by his quarry. Furthermore, judging from the way his superiors treat him it is clear from the start that he is but a foot soldier sent to do a dirty job.
The recruitment scene is the first illustration of his low place on the food-chain. He gets picked up from the street by a police officer named Gaff, who indimidates him with his gruff manner and his street patois, a mixture of several languages (Hungarian among others), which he clearly does not speak. Just a moment earlier he had another situation involving the communication gap. Ordering the meal he could not get his meaning across - the cook only speaks pigin English and didn't quite understand his order.
We must not forget the plot takes place in Los Angeles! This is the U.S. in which Japanese culture has become dominant. Although they don't take more than a couple of seconds, these two scenes are illustrative in many ways. Throughout the movie Deckard will be facing barriers, physical and artificial.
At the police precinct he has to undergo yet another humiliating experience - Captain Bryant, his former boss, wants to reinstate him as a blade runner - and explains to him what kind of a job he has in mind. We never get to know why he was retired in the first place; it is one of the many things about his past we don't know; perhaps the answer to that lies in the scene which come a little bit later in which Rachel asks him, "Did you ever by mistake retire a human being?", to which Deckard refuses to reply.
Braynt informs him that there has been an uprising of replicants off world, or the planets which have human colonies, and that four replicants, or "skin jobs", as Brynt calls them, have managed to escape, taking over a spaceship, and come to Earth. The police believe the replicants have tried to infiltrate the Tyrell corporation and will likely do it again. Deckard's task is to track them down and "retire" them before the general public finds out about it.
He flatly turns Bryant down. Then Bryant tries to cajole him by reminding him of how good he was, and how much he needs his talent, he refers to Deckard's "magic", and when that fails to impress him Bryant simply bullies him by bringing up the simple truth: "You know the score. (If) You're not cop, you're little people." For both of them this line clearly implies much more than it says explicitly.
The bounty hunter has no other choice but to comply.
He will go about his task in the best tradition of a classic noir movie gumshoe - relying on his brains as much as his brawn. He will relentlessly follow the leads and have more than one brush with death in the process. He will get a heck of a beating on several occasions and lose a few teeth. And though he eventually solves the case, we can't help but feel that he just got lucky.
In the crucial moments he will be helped by Rachel - another classic noir movie character, the mysterious woman, the femme fatale, who truly is a woman of many secrets.
Deckard and Rachel have a complex relationship - mix of sexual attraction, distrust and fear.
Throughout the movie Deckard remains a mystery to us. For every precious nugget of information we glean about him there is a vast region of uncharted territory which constitutes his past, his background, his privacy, his likes and dislikes. For all his reputation, he is one of the least exposed great SF movie characters.
Actually, much about Deckard is hidden in the subtext of this multi-layered movie. So much is left unsaid or only hinted at. We have to work things out for ourselves, reading between the lines, dissecting Harrison Ford's body language, looking closely into the minutiae of every scene.
Blade Runner is undeniably a movie about the spiritual quest of the protagonist. There is a sense of personal growth to Deckard's character.
There is not much we find likable about Deckard at the beginning of the movie - except maybe his trademark roguish grin and his love for noodles. He can display the same callous attitudes with which superiors treat him. He proceeds with his grizzly task in the best business-as-usual manner. He relentlessly spells things out to Rachel when she presses him into confession.
However, he will undergo tremendous character transformation by the end.
At last when he and Rachel disappear in the dark of the hall, you know they could be walking into their freedom, or their death. They are two fugitives. Whatever the future holds in store for them it is not going to be a bed of roses.
Depending on which version of the movie you prefer, or accept as legitimate, the ending is open to different interpretations. Personally, I tend to stick with the director's cut; this seems the most sensible choice to me, or let me rephrase Roy Batty, 'How do you repair what the Maker makes?'
Either way, we want to believe that the couple will make it. Wherever they are going we would like to think that they will get there together. That may be small consolation. But it is perhaps the most you can hope for in the dehumanized and paranoid world of Blade Runner.
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