The Running Man

"Very Good"

The Running Man Review


Game/reality shows have already entered the realm of the grotesque with people eating cow stomachs on Fear Factor, getting verbally castrated by Simon Cowell and company on American Idol, and tolerating Donald Trump's presence on The Apprentice. Seeing people actually hunted down by killers seems like the next logical step. And we have a movie for a template!

That movie is The Running Man, the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger action vehicle that resembles a lot of the Governator's best work: He kills people by the dozens, says some funny puns in that fist-thick Austrian accent and tags along with a hot exotic beauty. If that formula works for you, read on.

The material in Running Man is pretty heady compared to Commando and Red Heat. Based on Stephen King's novel, the movie is set in 2017 after the world has gone to hell. The government controls everything with an iron fist, including the television. The most popular game show is The Running Man, produced in conjunction with the Department of Justice, where a gang of colorful, murderous hunters pursues criminals across 400 city blocks.

Despite the show's immense popularity, creator and host Damon Killian (a well-cast Richard Dawson) wants more. The media mogul sees his chance when framed ex-cop/mass murderer Ben Richards (Schwarzenegger, not even trying to disguise his accent) escapes from prison. "I can get 10 points for his biceps alone!" Killian exclaims while seeing escape footage.

Richards is caught and sent into the hellish obstacle course, but not without some company--his fellow escapees (Yaphet Kotto and Marvin J. McIntyre) who are looking to jam the government's satellite feed and thus help an underground movement; and the aforementioned exotic beauty (Maria Conchita Alonso, well before she hosted a talk show on Spanish television and with shoulder pads that deserve special billing).

The movie's fun is its sadistic nature, with Killian pulling all of the strings and Richards pulling back even harder. But director Paul Michael Glaser and screenwriter Steven E. deSouza (Die Hard) unfortunately rehash the "television is manipulative" territory that was covered so much better in Network and later in The Truman Show, at the expense of some much needed character development. The message also doesn't resonate so well among all of the stabbings, shootings, explosions, and people on fire.

There are other problems: deSouza loads up Arnold with so many puns and one-liners ("He was Sub Zero, now he's plain zero!") that you'd think he's rehearsing for amateur night at The Comedy Store and not a stone-faced survivor. And though some of the bizarre casting works (football legend Jim Brown and opera singer Erland van Lidth appear as killers), some of it is just, um, bizarre. Mick Fleetwood and Dweezil Zappa as the leaders of the underground forces? They're great musicians, but not the most convincing actors.

For a Sunday afternoon rental, you can do much worse. Aside from its botched intellectual leanings and rushed ending, The Running Man keeps you entertained. We can only hope network execs that are watching don't get any funny ideas.

The Running Man DVD is padded out onto two discs, namely a widescreen and fullscreen version with slightly different special features. Two commentary tracks don't offer much insight (though that executive producer track is a real rarity), and a 20-minute featurette on the reality show craze is hit-and-miss (including comments from former Survivor Sarah Jones, of all people).



The Running Man

Facts and Figures

Run time: 101 mins

In Theaters: Friday 13th November 1987

Box Office Worldwide: $38.1M

Budget: $27M

Distributed by: Vestron Video

Production compaines: Braveworld Productions, HBO, Keith Barish Productions, TAFT Entertainment Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 61%
Fresh: 20 Rotten: 13

IMDB: 6.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: as Ben Richards, as Damon Killian, as Amber Mendez, as William Laughlin, as Fireball, as Captain Freedom, Erland van Lidth as Dynamo, Marvin J. McIntyre as Harold Weiss, Gus Rethwisch as Buzzsaw, Professor Tanaka as Subzero, as Mic, as 911 Security Officer, as Sven, as Stevie, as Brenda, as Lenny

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

The BFG Movie Review

The BFG Movie Review

For his adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic, Steven Spielberg reunited with screenwriter Melissa Mathison,...

Finding Dory Movie Review

Finding Dory Movie Review

It's been 13 years since the release of the Disney/Pixar hit Finding Nemo, and filmmaker...

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

This is where the Star Trek franchise officially shifts from thoughtful drama into thunderous action....

Ice Age: Collision Course Movie Review

Ice Age: Collision Course Movie Review

With its fifth feature-length adventure, this franchise continues its preposterous journey at full tilt. As...

Keanu Movie Review

Keanu Movie Review

An entertaining hybrid of satirical comedy and action thriller, this madcap adventure swerves wildly between...

Ghostbusters Movie Review

Ghostbusters Movie Review

It's been more than 30 years since the Ghostbusters first hit the big screen with...

Now You See Me 2 Movie Review

Now You See Me 2 Movie Review

While the original 2013 magical caper was a big hit, it's style-over-substance approach didn't exactly...

Advertisement
The Legend of Tarzan Movie Review

The Legend of Tarzan Movie Review

It's been nearly 30 years since the last live-action Tarzan movie, and yet it still...

Maggie's Plan Movie Review

Maggie's Plan Movie Review

A New York comedy with vivid characters and a contrived plot, this feels rather a...

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Movie Review

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Movie Review

Nearly 25 years after the sitcom debuted, Edina and Patsy arrive on the big screen...

Central Intelligence Movie Review

Central Intelligence Movie Review

After teaming up with Will Ferrell for Get Hard and Ice Cube for two Ride...

The Colony [Colonia] Movie Review

The Colony [Colonia] Movie Review

Based on a true story, this Chilean drama has a chilling edge to it that's...

Independence Day: Resurgence Movie Review

Independence Day: Resurgence Movie Review

Two decades is a long time to wait for a sequel, especially one starring much...

Elvis & Nixon Movie Review

Elvis & Nixon Movie Review

This movie is based on a real meeting between Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon in...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.