The Running Man (1987) – Review

3 Stars


Ah, how refreshing it is to see that in 1987, the idea of violent reality television was just a fantasy, used for fodder in a sci-fi themed Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle. Now here we are 25 years later, and many of the images and ideas presented in The Running Man are not far off from today’s television viewing. In perhaps the strangest adaption of a Stephen King novella, writing under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, screenwriter De Souza has kept the basic concept of an innocent man trapped in the hellish world of reality television, and thrown away all the other details.

In the year 2017, American is a totalitarian state, where a vicious bloody TV game show is the most popular program in the history of television ratings. Each new episode features a group of convicts, given the chance to be pardoned if he can defeat a ruthless gang of killers in a seres of brutal confrontations. When Ben Richards (Schwarzenegger), an ex-military man wrongly convicted of massacring woman and children, is given his opportunity to be on the program, he makes short work of the futuristic gladiators who wield, flame throwers, chainsaws, and other exotic weaponry.

The Running Man isn’t directed so much as assembled. The sets look cheap, and the over tendency to light each set piece with a different primary color becomes distracting. The film starts off strong with a political message and a critical eye toward the provocative nature of television, but quickly turns into a standard action film, complete with the Schwarzenegger one-liners. The enormous charisma of the Austrian Oak saves the picture form devolving into a Rollerball/Mad Max clone, simply from his presence alone. Real-life game show host Richard Dawson nearly, steals the picture as the unscrupulous host of the fictional television series. Not the best of Schwarzenegger’s career, but worth a look simply as a time capsule in pop culture.

Director: Paul Michael Glaser
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maria Conchita Alonso, Yaphet Kotto

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