MOVIE REVIEW: The Running Man (1987)

Mick Fleetwood and Dweezil Zappa appear in this cheesey 80’s classic!

RUNNING MAN FRONT

THE RUNNING MAN (1987, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, directed by Paul Michael Glaser)

It’s hard to believe that, as goofy as The Running Man is, it came so close to predicting what aspects of our society would be like in the future. We still have a few years before we hit 2019, perhaps we are right on track for our 2019 to match this version!

The Running Man is loosely (and I mean, very very very loosely) based on the novella by Richard Bachman, otherwise known to his “dear readers” as Stephing King. Where the King book involved a desperate man who needs money to buy medicine, and a game where he can travel anywhere in the world, the movie scales things back. Ah-nold, at his one-liner best, is Ben Richards, a former pilot who disobeyed orders and refused to fire on an unarmed mob. He is imprisoned but escapes, and is now about to appear on “The Running Man”, a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week television show (hmmm, Big Brother?) and fight for his life. The prize is a full pardon for your crimes, a loss means death.

This story was recently ripped off in a lil’ smash hit movie called The Hunger Games.  Perhaps you’ve seen it, or a 13 year old girl wearing a Peeta shirt?

Society is now a police state (hmmm?) and the people are distracted by endless game shows on television (hmmm?). News is heavily censored and “edited for television” (hmmm?). Ben Richards’ crime of disobeying orders has been spun by the networks — they show a fake video of him firing on the unarmed crowd, earning himself the nickname “The Butcher of Bakersfield”. Now he will have the chance to win his freedom on The Running Man, but the odds are well stacked against him. By his side, also fighting for their lives, are two captured freedom fighters.  These guys are hoping to use their capture to find the source of network transmissions.  Then they could jam it, and broadcast the truth of what the world has become….

The Running Man is not a great film. It’s an 80’s Arnold film.  If you’ve seen one, you know what you’re getting.  Lots of action. Arnold must battle “Stalkers” on The Running Man. Much like the gladiators on American Gladiators, these stalkers will do everything they can to stop Arnold from winning. They include:

* Sub-Zero, as played by Professor Toru Tanaka (weapons include hockey stick blade and exploding pucks)
* Fireball, played by Jim Brown (flamethrower, jet pack)
* the opera-loving Dynamo (who has a punk-rock-looking suit that can fire electricity; sings)
* Buzzsaw (so named for his use of chainsaw and motorcycle)
* the retired Captain Freedom (Arnold’s friend Jesse Ventura)

The show is run by Damien Killian (subtle!), played by former Family Feud host Richard Dawson. Nobody could have played this role better than Dawson. While playing a game show host was not a stretch for him, Dawson was absolutely flawless in the role. Other famous names include Yaphet Kotto (Alien) as another Running Man contestant, Mick Fleetwood as former-musician-turned-freedom-fighter named Mic (I like to think Mick is just playing the future version of himself) and a very young Dweezil Zappa.

The blu-ray disc has enough bonus features to keep you going after the film has ended, including audio commentaries and featurettes. The audio is really nice, mastered in sweet, sweet 7.1 surround. When Arnold is in that little pod heading down to The Running Man’s play area, the sound was awesome. If you have 7.1 at home you need to check this out. I really enjoyed the sound.

If you like other cheesey Arnold Schwarzenegger movies such as Total Recall or Commando, add The Running Man to your collection. If you like movies with a stirring plot and dramatic acting, avoid at all costs. Regardless of your feelings on this film, do try to read the book. I have always felt that a remake of this film, following King’s book, is well overdue.

3/5 stars

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5 comments

  1. I love this film. Only read it a couple of years ago actually. Really enjoyed the book but I actually think this is a rare instance where a film beats the original! And I totally forgot Mick Fleetwood was in it!!

    Like

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