Friday, September 20, 2013

Revisiting the Classics -- The Running Man

Today we have the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger movie The Running Man. Directed by Paul Michael Glaser and based on the novel by Stephen King, it continues to serve as a commentary on America's lust for violence.

The story takes place in 2019. America has become a police state which is ruled with an iron fist. Ben Richards (Schwarzenegger) is a cop for said police state. One night he and his squad are called out to the scene of a food riot. Despite confirming that the mob is unarmed and filled with women and children, Richards is ordered to fire on them. Being the good guy, he refuses. Unfortunately, his partners are not so compassionate. They subdue him and fire on the crowd. He subsequently takes the blame for the attack and is sent to prison. While there, he meets up with resistance members Laughlin (Yaphet Kotto) and Weiss (Marvin J. McIntyre) who want to expose the government's evil deeds. They soon stage a prison break and go their separate ways. Richards heads to his brother's apartment but once there he instead finds Amber Mendez (Maria Conchita Alonso). He forces her to help him get past security at the airport. Too bad he didn't ask nicely; she quickly reports him to the authorities. He's captured once again and, along with equally captured Laughlin and Weiss, is put on The Running Man, a television show where condemned prisoners are hunted by "stalkers," i.e., colorful sadists with weapons. Now the four of them (Amber also has to participate) must survive the game, bring down the system, and get revenge on The Running Man's sleazy host Killian (game show legend Richard Dawson).

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more distinctly 80's movie than this. It's got Schwarzenegger, WWF mainstay Jesse Ventura, bad fashion, synth music, and cheesy one-liners aplenty. It's definitely not Arnie's best movie (that would be Terminator 2), but really--you're not going into this expecting The Godfather. It delivers what it promises: a fun sci-fi romp. I like the retro/primitive CG effects, and the stalkers are certainly interesting. From a psycho Japanese hockey player to a lightning-shooting opera star wannabe, they are simultaneously menacing and nutty as hell. I had fun watching Arnie and CO. tear them apart. Richard Dawson is also a fun attraction, starring as a twisted caricature of himself. 

Bottom line: if you're a Schwarzenegger fan, you can do worse than The Running Man (*cough*Commando*cough*).

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