The Running Man (1987)

DVD Cover (Republic Pictures)
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Overall Rating 64%
Overall Rating
Ranked #760
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In a dystopian America, a falsely convicted policeman gets his shot at freedom when he must forcibly participate in a TV game show where convicts, runners, must battle killers for their freedom. --IMDb
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Maria Conchita Alonso
Maria Conchita Alonso
Yaphet Kotto
Yaphet Kotto
Jim Brown
Jim Brown
Jesse Ventura
Jesse Ventura
Review by Chad
Added: February 05, 2007
I've got a weakness for mindless action flicks. There, I'll admit it. Keep in mind that I'm not grouping all action films into the mindless category, but the movie-makers of the eighties were especially fond of action movies where quality wasn't determined by plot or acting abilities; no, the quality of these films were determined by the amount of explosions and one-liners that could be squeezed into ninety minutes. There were a number of guys who were known for these films, but for my money, nobody did them better than Arnold Schwarzenegger. Sure, the man didn't have a whole lot going on for him other than the fact that he looked good with a gun and had the ability to spout one-liners for the camera, but you were always guaranteed a fun time at the theater when his latest movie came out.

Taking place in the year 2019, Arnie stars as helicopter pilot Ben Richards who works for the government in a riot control type of job - well, he does during the first five minutes of the film, at least. His job is "terminated" after he refuses to fire upon and kill thousands of unarmed women and children who are rioting for food, and to make matters worse, he's imprisoned for his disobedience. The media portrays him as a monster, claiming that he went against orders and murdered these people of his own accord, when truthfully, he was knocked out by his cohorts as they themselves followed those fateful orders. He eventually manages to escape this prison with the help of a couple of friends - William Laughlin (Yaphet Kotto) and Harold Weiss (Marvin J. McIntyre) - and in the process of running from the law, he meets Amber Mendez (Maria Conchita Alonso), a woman living in his brother's former apartment. Maria is none too happy about this "butcher" breaking into her home, but Richards plans to bring her along with him so that he can use her travel pass and escape the scrutiny of the police: he is, after all, just a normal guy "taking a vacation with his wife", so nobody should give him a second look. That plan is ruined, however, when Amber rats him out at the airport, and Richards is once again sent to prison.

Meanwhile, Damon Killian (Richard Dawson), the host of a popular television show by the name of "The Running Man", is looking for some new contestants to appear on his show. You see, this show is the ultimate in reality television: convicts (known as "runners") are recruited from the government and forced to make their way through an underground maze of debris and rubble, and if they manage to escape, they are granted a full pardon for their crimes. Making matters difficult is the fact that there are also "stalkers" down there, men whose sole purpose is to maim and murder these runners for the viewing pleasure of the home audience. With colorful names such as Subzero (Professor Toru Tanaka), Buzzsaw (Gus Rethwisch), Dynamo (Erland Van Lidth), Fireball (Jim Brown), and Captain Freedom (Jesse Ventura), these stalkers carry an assortment of weaponry and pose a pretty big threat to our ass-kicking star... and not only does Richards have to play this game, but his friends from the earlier jailbreak as well as Amber are all forced to play along with him as well.

While it can truthfully be said that the storyline has ties to today's state of affairs, what with the reality television and the media control, make no mistake about it: this is your typical Arnold movie. It's a bizarre coincidence, I have to admit; the current trend in reality television is that every show has to top the last one in terms of both shock value and how far they'll go, and how much further could you go than killing people live on television every night? However, a bizarre coincidence is all that it is: the main point of the film is to serve as a vehicle for Arnold's typical mixture of action and one-liners (he even slips in the infamous "I'll be back" at one point), and although the storyline is a little more deep than some of his other films, it's nothing to write home about. That's not necessarily a bad thing, mind you, but it should be pointed out for those of you who believe that this could be something more.

With that said, this was one of the better action films of Arnold's career. The storyline is interesting and actually has some substance to it, and the villains that he faces are also quite intriguing (with the exception of Dynamo, who went beyond laughable and towards stupid). Each one receives time to shine and each has their own special something, and although the viewer knows that Arnold will come out on top in the end, each one seemed to have some semblance of hope in their battles against him. It was also pretty entertaining to see both Mick Fleetwood and Dweezil Zappa in minor roles here, and Richard Dawson completely owns the scenes that he's in - what better role for a former game show host to play than that of a egotistical, self-serving game show host?

Overall, it's a fairly good movie if you're into Arnold's style of mindless action flicks. There's plenty of action, explosions, one-liners, and shoot-outs, and there's actually a somewhat-original storyline (courtesy of Stephen King, no less) to tie it all together. It won't change your opinion on the governator's career in Hollywood and it's not something you'll want to rush out to purchase, but it's pretty good for what it is. 7/10.
Crispy #1: Crispy - added 02/05/2007, 11:20 PM
haha this movie is so great. Also, a source of an inside joke between me and my friends. His line. "You can eat that contract, but I hope you leave enough room for my fist, because I'm going to punch you in the stomach and break your god damned spine!"
Crispy #2: Crispy - added 02/05/2007, 11:34 PM
Oh completely forgot to mention. This is "based" on the Stephen King book in name and general GENERAL concept only. In the book, he's just an average joe who signed onto the game for the money to pay for his kid's medical care. Plus he can hide anywhere in the country, not just in their arena
grain of sand #3: grain of sand - added 02/11/2007, 04:29 PM
I wonder if this has anything to do with that superNES game 'smash tv'?
I like this movie, good little concept and I always kinda wished it was a real thing.
Lucid Dreams #4: Lucid Dreams - added 07/11/2010, 02:48 AM
From what I remembered as a kid I enjoyed this. 7/10
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