In 2017 the economy across the world crashed. Everything- including food and resources like oil- is in limited supply. Both the Police and the Military have power and control, making the rules. This government also owns and maintains TV programs, including a sickening game called The Running Man, which is currently the highest-rated show. The Running Man is a live broadcast where selected individuals must try and stay alive while running from many ruthless killers. Any form of resistance against the state has remained secret.
After refusing orders to kill many unarmed women and children, an officer of the law named Ben Richards (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is stood down and framed for a crime he didn’t commit. Having served eighteen months in prison, he decides to escape with some of his newly made friends. However, Ben’s freedom is short-lived. The Running Man is failing to keep its ratings, and Damon Killian (Richard Dawson), the man in charge of the show and its host, is forced to seek other methods to keep the show successful. After seeing Ben’s escape on television, he demands that Ben be captured and become the newest contestant. Now, Ben is thrown into a game filled with twisted horror and dangerous killers who all thirst for murder. While obtaining freedom is the aim of the game, Damon, the host of The Running Man, has zero intentions of letting Ben survive and escape. Can Ben outsmart and defeat each killer, and more importantly, can Ben find a way to escape and gain his freedom once again?
Combining many genres such as action, thriller, sci-fi and comedy (especially when it comes from the many cheesy one-liners from Arnold Schwarzenegger), The Running Man is an entertaining blast. The first act also moves at an incredible pace, and it’s not long until we see our leading hero forced to play a deadly game. Sci-fi concepts and visuals are a significant strength here. The film is highly creative in many areas; after all, it is set in the so-called future year of 2017. The world has gritty tones, and some aspects are highly futuristic, including the clothing the many characters wear throughout. The Running Man as a game itself is straightforward but, again, creative. While movie lovers have seen this done many times by now, this was exciting and fresh in 1987.
Beginning with a simple and apparent premise of our leading hero being wrongly accused instantly helps the audience to support Ben. Ben is likable, but I can’t deny that many of the corny and cheesy one-liners will make audiences laugh or cringe. I found the many one-liners funny, and Arnold Schwarzenegger adds a fun touch to the seriousness, violence, and gore. I can’t deny that some lines are poorly delivered but again, I can’t help but laugh or enjoy the film trying to be serious with its dialogue, especially when Ben is first introduced on screen.
While Arnold Schwarzenegger brings a likeable and fun presence, I am saddened to say the biggest letdown is that the villain feels silly and weak instead of significant. The final confrontation is also a slight letdown and is concluded quickly instead of delivering a big showdown. I can’t deny that the many scenes in which we watch the villain interact with the various audience members or even just some of the musical numbers and dance sequences on The Running Man show feel incredibly dull and painful. The soundtrack fits everything on the screen but sometimes feels somewhat repetitive.
Overall, filled with fun elements of sci-fi and bloody action, The Running Man delivers highly brainless entertainment. Naturally, the best part of this film is the many cheesy one-liners from actor Arnold Schwarzenegger. He is likable throughout, plus there are many scenes filled with fun action, sci-fi and, most importantly, violence. Being set in the future, the film is also packed with great concepts and creative moments. As for disappointments, I found the villain to be the weaker aspect of the film and sadly, he is given far more screen time than required. Are you seeking a brainless movie with plenty of quotable one-liners, a corny soundtrack and gore? Run to your local retailer, and pick this one up. The Running Man (1987) is Now Available on 4K UHD.
23rd November 2022
Written by Peter Walkden
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Our opinion on this feature has also been submitted to Rotton Tomatoes (Audiences Score*).