Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Running Man (1987)

The Running Man
I'm a big Arnold Schwarzenegger fan so it was only a matter of time before I watched The Running Man. Somehow I still need to see Conan the Barbarian, but after that I should be caught up on all the major Arnie movies.
Stephen King wrote the novel this movie is loosely based on under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. The Running Man takes place in a dystopian future where convicted criminals are put on a game show and forced to fight for their lives. Ben Richards (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a policeman framed for a massacre he didn't commit. Richards is put on the show as punishment and tries to survive and clear his name.
The Running Man shares some similar themes to Videodrome and They Live, such as the effect of TV and the media on the masses, but is lighter in tone than those two movies. The Running Man is hilarious at times, but still tells a good story with something to think about. The satire continues to be relevant today, perhaps even more so than in 1987, thanks to the popularity of reality TV and the internet.
Arnold is fun as always bringing a bunch of great one liners (like "you're the asshole from TV!") to the table as usual. However, it is Richard Dawson as The Running Man's host, Killian, who steals the show. Dawson hosted many game shows such as Match Game and Family Feud in real life and does a great job parodying himself as a sleazy and egotistical host. Jesse Ventura (as Captain Freedom!), Yaphet Kotto, Jim Brown, and Maria Conchita Alonso also put in memorable performances.

Besides the humor and satire, another strong point of the film are the creative action scenes. As part of the game show, contestants are hunted in different game zones by "stalkers" with gimmicks such as Buzzsaw and his chainsaw, Fireball and his flamethrower, and Dynamo who has a suit that can arc electricity.
The Running Man was directed by Paul Michael Glaser. This is his most well known film but he is also infamous for being the director of Kazaam! That movie effectively killed Glaser's career though he has done some TV work since. Although Glaser was not the first choice to direct, I think his background in TV helped the film given its subject matter.
The music is dated and the dance scenes featuring choreography from Paula Abdul go on too long. While I understand that the cheesy music and scantily clad women dancing for no reason in the TV show are part of the parody, it still could have been limited since it felt like overkill at times.
The Running Man is not on the quite on the same level as other Sci-Fi action movies starring Arnold Schwarzenegger such as the Terminator movies or Total Recall, but The Running Man is still a fun ride and a must watch for fans of Arnie.

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