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USA 1987
Directed by
Paul Michael Glaser
101 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

The Running Man

For anyone whose idea of a good time is watching a bad movie The Running Man has everything you need.

Based on a novel by Richard Bachman (a pseudonym for Stephen King) adapted by Steven E. De Souza The Running Man is a futuristic action comedy set in 2017 when society is run by a military oligarchy that keeps the hoi polloi in line with a steady diet of brain-numbing televised entertainments, the most popular of which gives the film its name. Enemies of the state are forced to run for their lives pursued by murderous bruisers with names like Fireball, Subzero and Buzzsaw.

Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Ben Richards a helicopter gunship pilot who is jailed after refusing to fire on a unarmed crowd rioting for food. as a result he ends up as one of the pursued on the show. You can guess what happens. That is the problem. Although in some respects, as a dystopian satire of  modern media the film is quite prescient, whatever potential it had it founders in its pedestrian, repetitious script with its nudge-and-wink pop-cultural in-jokes, bad acting, routine directing and awful wardrobe all topped off with a clichéd power ballad that has nothing to do with the movie over the end credits. Some of this kitchiness was clearly intentional but even if you can separate those aspects which were intended from the ones that weren’t still none are very good (e.g. of the former, some character about to be offed yells “I don’t want to be the only asshole in heaven", of the latter, Arnie quotes his classic line “I’ll be back).  

No one expects good acting from Schwarzenegger but at least he’s watchable which is more than one can say of the rest of the cast many of whom were professional pro-wrestlers rather than actors. The one exception is real life veteran TV game show emcee Richard Dawson who is truly villainous as the ruthless host of the TV show. Former Miss Venezuela, Maria Conchita Alonso, is thrown into the mix  but Glazer gives her nothing to do but be Schwarzenegger's foil.

FYI: Glaser is best known as Starsky of the ‘70s hit buddy cop  television series Starsky and Hutch. He directed a couple more forgotten features before drifting back to the small screen.




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