The Running Man (1987)

After the failure of America’s economy, the country is ruled under martial law.  In order to appease the masses, the nation broadcasts game shows where the contestants will probably die; but that’s cool, because they are hardened criminals (most of the time). The highest-rated of these shows is called The Running Man, hosted by Damon Killian (Richard Dawson). Killian needs a contestant to bring in some extra viewers and put him over the top; he has his eye sent on a recent prison escapee named Ben Richards (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Richards is known as ‘the Butcher of Bakersfield’ after he killed 60 unarmed civilians during a riot; only he didn’t, the military just pinned it on him.

Richards is eventually captured at the airport, trying to flee the country with his female hostage, Amber.  He is all signed up for The Running Man, and fabulous prizes await him, if he can survive the 3-hour show.  He will have professional executioners on his tail the whole time, selected by the studio audience, and will be running for his life… could that be where they got the title from?  He won’t be alone in this game, as two of his prison friends will be joining him and eventually Amber joins in after learning the truth about Richards and the riot.

The group is dumped into a game zone set in the ruins of Los Angeles, and starts the battle for their lives.  They must defeat Sub Zero, a sumo wrestler on ice skates, Buzzsaw, a chainsaw wielding biker, Dynamo, an opera singer who wields electricity courtesy of a Lite-Brite covered suit and who is not above raping a contestant now and then, and then and finally Fireball a guy with a jet pack and a flame thrower.  Can all of our contestants live to see the end, and also bring down the network and possibly the corrupt country at the same time? Doubtful.   

Alex’s Thoughts: Growing up, this was one of the movie I watched a lot. While it’s still a good watch, it’s sad to see how dated this movie has become.  It never really relied too much on special effects to tell the story, when it did, those effects looked bad even then.  Recently this movie has been compared to The Hunger Games, though I’m not sure why.  Other than the ‘kill for entertainment’ concept this isn’t even close.  People have been entertained by death since before the Roman coliseum, and that need is filled today with horror movies and films like this.  The stalkers in this movie are anything but intimidating, and most just look like a bunch of old men that should be working at a butcher shop somewhere.  Arnie has his usual one-liners, but Jesse Ventura is the real star of this movie, despite only being on camera for like 5 minutes.  This movie could use a re-boot, which I am not usually in favor of, but there is a lot of potential here for something great, as this version falls short in a lot of places.  Alex Rates This Movie 7/10

Tim’s Thoughts: Yes this movie shows its age, and if you are tired of Arnold’s one-liners, then maybe you should pass. For me, it’s still pretty great, I can’t help but have fun watching Arnie and friends running around and blowing stuff up. I will fully admit that I will rate this high for the sole reason that I have loved this since I was a kid, but really there are some classic scenes, and Jesse Ventura really steals the show. Just take a look at the cast and all the other great movies they were in….Yaphet Kotto: Alien, Jesse V. and Arnold: Predator, Jim Brown!: Mars Attacks…. okay, maybe that wasn’t so great… Not to mention that I can’t help but think that Richard Dawson was really just playing himself. (I think he’s that sleazy, but that’s the appeal isn’t it?) This isn’t for everyone, but I think you will know just by the title or the cast if it’s for you. I will probably always enjoy going back to this movie with its eclectic cast. Tim Rates This Movie 8/10

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View the IMDB entry for this movie here or add it to your Netflix queue