Paul Michael Glaser’s “The Running Man” (1987) felt like a top-tier Arnold Schwarzenegger automobile upon release.
It was primarily based on a novella by Richard Bachman, who we later realized was Stephen King. It adopted the competent, well-produced automobiles like “Commando” (clearly, Schwarzenegger had higher luck choosing films than Chuck Norris), and it was coming proper after an enormous dwelling run with “Predator” earlier within the yr.
Because the premise recommended not solely a dystopic futurist parable but in addition the basic “The Most Dangerous Game,” it appeared Schwarzenegger was lastly going to be recognized for greater than saying three phrases on display screen.
Schwarzenegger performs Ben Richards, a helicopter pilot who’s framed for a heinous crime he didn’t commit. He’s despatched to jail, then compelled to take part in a vile and wildly fashionable TV sport present known as The Running Man.
The host of the collection can also be an influence participant inside the social construction of this corrupt world (not less than as a lot as Caesar Flickerman was in “The Hunger Games”).
Steven de Souza tailored Richard Bachman’s novella and the dialogue is amusingly dopey. Early on, Schwarzenegger protests, “To hell with you. I will not fire on helpless human beings!” I’m unconvinced that even Meryl Streep might make that line work.
This performs like “The Hunger Games” for grown-ups. However, a film that goals to be this gnarly ought to be nearer to the no-holds-barred, stunning and sensible movie “The Hunger Games” ripped off, which is “Battle Royale” (2000).
Instead, this has the crowd-pleasing security internet of the previous and not one of the savage satire and barbarity of the latter. However, it’s authentically a crimson meat ’80s motion film, because it turns us into the studio viewers and makes us root for carnage over the rest.
Atop of racist stereotypes and broad caricatures on show, Schwarzenegger is taking part in an American right here. Yes, his character’s identify is Ben Richards and, because it goes in a few of his different starring automobiles, we’re not meant to query why the very-Austrian Schwarzenegger is taking part in an American.
Nevertheless, we all know the character kind, as Richards is in full Kill n’ Quip mode and a becoming Schwarzenegger position.
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Richard Dawson is first fee because the host of “The People’s Network.” Playing a cross between Vince McMahon and Simon Cowell, Dawson steals the film and even has an ideal exit.
After a robust intro, Maria Conchita Alonso’s character turns into a fundamental damsel in misery Alonso, a dynamic actress, was really higher utilized within the Schwarzenegger-less “Predator 2” (1990).
There’s additionally Kurt Fuller and New Line Cinema common and “Insidious” MVP Lin Shaye. Mick Fleetwood (resembling Nicol Williamson) and Dweezil Zappa have early cameo appearances and are enjoyable to look at appearing alongside Schwarzenegger.
Jesse “The Body” Ventura reveals up doing Hulk Hogan’s schtick and, simply in case the expertise record wasn’t wild sufficient, Paula Abdul did the choreography.
“The Running Man” positive desires to be “RoboCop,” because the omnipresent ICS channel that airs The Running Man sport present is to this world what OCP is to “RoboCop” (in actual fact, each have been launched the identical summer season). Despite how foolish that is, it surprisingly will get so much proper about Reality Television.
It’s additionally campy, very ’80s and actually bloody for a 1987 R-rating.
While too dumb and foolish to succeed as satire, it’s involving and grasps the narrative pull of a company’s means to tug in and keep a grasp on the plenty.
Another contact I appreciated: De Souza is appropriate in assuming that 2017 TV executives wouldn’t know what “Gilligan’s Island” or Mr. Spock is.
The fanatical devotion in direction of Reality TV depicted right here jogged my memory of the time John Carpenter (no, not the filmmaker) gained “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” and “American Gladiators,” “Survivor,” “The Amazing Race” pointed to Reality TV getting actually unhealthy, actually quick.
Post-“The Truman Show” (1998), it’s not arduous to think about “The Running Man” airing on prime time tv, although presumably with a decrease physique rely…for now.
Det. Starsky-turned-director Glaser’s route is TV-ready, together with scenes ending with cuts to exteriors, like a TV present after a business break. Glaser’s solely directorial credit score after this was, of all issues, the Shaquille O’Neal genie comedy, “Kazaam!” (1996).
In Schwarzenegger’s 2012 autobiography, “Total Recall: My Unbelievably True-Life Story” (spoiler: the title doesn’t lie), he complained over Glaser’s dealing with of the sensational materials and expressed unhappiness that the unique director, Andrew Davis (who later directed Schwarzenegger within the 2002 “Collateral Damage”) was changed.
Schwarzenegger’s dismissive evaluation of the movie isn’t fully truthful. While not a basic and or on the extent of both “The Terminator” (1984) or “Predator,” “The Running Man” is mainly “The Most Dangerous Game” crossed with “Rollerball” plus a splash of “Escape from New York.”
While it’s straightforward to select on the casting of Schwarzenegger because the very-American Ben Richards and the star’s struggles with English have been current at this level, this isn’t a nasty automobile nor a profession misstep.
“The Running Man” didn’t earn the respect of James Cameron’s “The Terminator” (1984) however it was a success and one other title that pushed the star in direction of his trajectory with “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (1991).
Most wouldn’t contemplate Schwarzenegger an actor, however he would show everybody unsuitable. He wound up having an surprising aptitude for comedy (“Twins,” “Kindergarten Cop,” the bizarre however watchable “Junior” and particularly “True Lies”) and drama (whereas little seen, Schwarzenegger’s efficiency within the “Maggie” is as understated and noteworthy because the movie itself).
The former Mr. Universe is such a compelling display screen presence that, even in films like this, he makes his casting work. Few film stars can pull that off.
Harold Faltermeyer’s John Carpenter-esque rating is an enormous plus. The third act is crass and foolish, because the heavies are all attired like “Mad Max” villains. It’s all very WWF, significantly the Iron Sheik and Junkyard Dog period.
If solely the struggle scenes weren’t so clunky.
Considering that this got here out within the period of Morton Downey Jr., the chair toss at Geraldo Rivera, however earlier than a long time of Jerry Springer and Maury Povich chaos, the depiction that probably the most blood thirsty gladiators are the viewers members was useless on, then and now.
The movie’s greatest achievement is that it makes the purpose that the actual savagery is within the reside studio viewers. If “Network” (1976) was the prophetic, mental tackle this premise and “The Truman Show” (1998) is the mild allegory of how TV shapes the lives of its watchers and merchandise, then “The Running Man” may very well be only a few years forward of being the actual factor.
I hope that’s not true, however it definitely appears like ICS-like sweeps week mayhem is correct across the nook…if it hasn’t arrived already.