The Running Man (1987)
Director: Paul Michael Glaser
Writers: Stephen King, Steven E. de Souza
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Brown, Jesse Ventura, Richard Dawson
Reviewed By: Adam Griffith
The world had devolved into a dystopian, totalitarian nightmare. Basic necessities are in short supply and the government is not afraid to mow down unarmed citizens from hovering black helicopters. Our hero Ben Richards (Schwarzenegger) is a helicopter pilot who refuses to follow orders and is soon framed and incarcerated. Will he “volunteer” to appear on the nations number rated television show The Running Man. Fans love the show where felons are given a chance at freedom if they can avoid capture and death from a group of stalkers. The show is hosted by the enormously popular Damon Killian (Richard Dawson). In fact it’s the number one rated show in America. No it’s not Wayne Lapierre’s wet dream. It’s the plot of The Running Man. A better than average 1980’s action flick based on a story written by Stephen King.
This is one of those Arnie movies that he was cranking out in the 80’s that has become a staple of late night and saturday afternoon TV programmers. You know the drill, cheesy special effects, cornball dialogue, an unrealistically forced love interest. That is not to suggest that the film is unwatchable or even bad for that matter. Although, the gladiatorial combat is a bit tame by todays standards, the film still has plenty to love for action fans. Schwarzenegger, manages to deliver plenty of trademark ridiculous over the top violence and snappy one liners. For instance Arnie utters “What happened to Buzzsaw?” with “He had to Split” after cutting him in half with a chain saw.
This film is an action film without a bit more going on beneath the surface. The film does an excellent job of depicting the pacification of the populace through ridiculous television entertainment. In fact some of the film will almost appear prophetic with its depiction of reality T.V. and a zombified viewing populace. Sure the plot is a bit recycled and anyone who has read The Most Dangerous Game, or watched Death Race 2000 are going to recognize familiar themes. This plot has also been reused recently, at least in part in Battle Royale and The Hunger Games. Of course, for some reason Suzanne Collins author of the Hunger Games would have you believe that she is completely unfamiliar with any of those sources. After all she has been living under a rock for the last forty years.
Is this a great film. I can’t tell a lie, no it is not. However, this is still an entertaining way to spend an hour and a half. Similarly, this is fine example of a 1980’s Hollywood action/comedy film. Give the running man a shot and you will not be disappointed. I am giving this film two future Governors.