The Running Man (1987)


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Rating: The Good – 75
Genre: Science Fiction, Action
Duration: 101 mins
Director: Paul Michael Glaser
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Yaphet Kotto

“In the year 2017, a man charged with a crime has a choice: hard time or prime time?” Great premise, bags of wit, colourful characters, terrific stunts, Arnold Schwarzenegger in belting form, and Yaphet Kotto. You couldn’t ask more from a science fiction action romp. In this superior predecessor to The Hunger Games, Arnie plays a prisoner in a future totalitarian state where the public’s catharsis is achieved via a violent television game show where felons are pursued by elite killers called stalkers. Not surprisingly our man ends up in the mix but as he gives the stalkers a taste of their own medicine he slowly begins to win the public over. The Running Man is based on a Stephen King short story (written under his pen name) and has all the originality you’d come to expect from King. Arnie always did well in these types of vehicles and given he was just entering his prime years, he’s in his element tumbling around in his gold spandex and chainsawing bad guys in half.

The production values are extravagant enough for their time yet unmistakably 80′s. However, that only adds to the movie’s pedigree for the 1980’s was the heyday for this type of dystopian futuristic action film (see Escape From New York, Total Recall, RoboCop, etc.). Without doubt, the most enjoyable aspect of The Running Man is its sense of fun. From Arnie’s well executed one-liners and the endless insults the main players hurl at each other to the tongue-in-cheek cultural commentary which peaks wonderfully at moments such as the half-time “Climbing for Dollars” show (where contestants literally climb a rope for dollars while avoiding the snapping jaws of viscous dogs below). Funny then, because it seemed so outrageous but of course nowadays, it takes on a whole different kind of humour.

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