The Running Man (1987) (part 4 of 4)
Richards wants to keep moving, and we briefly see Amber being herded into the game zone before going back to our Stalkers. We also get a look at football great and perfectly serviceable action hero Jim Brown in street clothes as Fireball, but I’ll get to him in a bit.
Amber hooks up with the guys, just as Buzzsaw attacks. Dynamo joins in, and our heroes split up. Weiss and Amber find the satellite uplink, while Dynamo prowls around. Well, as much as a fat guy in a souped up dune buggy wearing a suit festooned with colorful lights can be said to “prowl”.
Richards and Laughlin end up dealing with Buzzsaw. Laughlin gets slashed with the saw before Richards has a one on one matchup with Buzzsaw, who drags him along the ground after snagging him with a cable that has some bolos on the end or something. While this is going on, Leon is getting his prizes, which include a home version [!] of the show.
Richards manages to get Buzzsaw off his bike, and then we cut to Amber and Weiss as Weiss tries to access the uplink. He tells Amber he’ll need her to remember some codes.
Back to Ben and Buzzsaw, and after a brief punch up it comes down to grappling over the saw. The villain says that the saw is a part of him, and he’s about to make it part of Richards, to which Richards has this to say.
He proceeds to thrust the saw up between the man’s legs, naturally killing him real damn good.
The audience and Killian are once again shocked into silence. Meanwhile, Weiss is getting the codes as Dynamo creeps up on them, which for a guy his size can’t be easy. Admittedly, he does look a little creepy in the dark, with just his lights indicating his presence. Of course, once the lights come on… Well, at least he looks creepy in the dark.
Weiss finishes the job just as Dynamo attacks, blasting Amber and Weiss with electricity. Amber is knocked to the ground, but Weiss isn’t so lucky, being so close to an electrical device and all, I guess.
Richards hears Amber’s screams, and sees her grappling with Dynamo. And then Dynamo and Richards face off, to the delight of the crowd. After a pursuit, Richards ends up getting our portly villain to crash his dune buggy, trapping him inside. Well, okay, Richards doesn’t actually do anything to cause the crash. The big dummy tries to drive the car up a junk pile, and ends up rolling the damn thing.
Incapacitated, Dynamo is at Richards’ mercy, but our hero being a decent fellow, he refuses to kill a helpless opponent. The audience boos, and Killian tries to gain some semblance of order before going to the halftime show.
Laughlin then gets a deathbed speech. Hey, it either had to be Yaphet Kotto, who’s a really good actor, or Marvin J. McIntire… who isn’t.
Before dying, Laughlin tells them the resistance has a base nearby, and tells Richard not to let him down because he “doesn’t want to be the only asshole in heaven”. Ah, leave it to good old Yaphet to take a crappy line of dialogue, and make it slightly less crappy.
The scene is interrupted by Killian on a camera in his office. He compliments Richards, and offers him a job as a Stalker. Richards yanks the camera out and sneers into it.
Hmm, I think there’s a very good reason they usually only let Arnold speak in brief sentences.
Richards smashes the camera, and after Killian gets a call from the attorney general, it’s back to the show. And now, Fireball is brought in. As you might expect, his gimmick is a flamethrower, but he also has a rocket pack which allows him to fly. During this, we cut to Captain Freedom as he looks at a poster of himself. Don’t worry, Jesse Ventura will eventually do something in this movie.
Fireball heads outside and flies into the game zone, and it would seem Richards is winning some fans, because the old lady from earlier is now betting on him to make the next kill. She even throws in some profanity, because as Betty White taught us, old women swearing is just hilarious.
Bets are now being placed on Richards, and as he and Amber bicker, they’re found by Fireball. A cat and mouse game ensues, though it’s not often you can say that the mice are a muscle bound Austrian and a reasonably hot chick, and the cat is wielding a flamethrower.
Richards tells Amber to make a run for it while doing his best Donkey Kong impression, tossing huge barrels at the oncoming Stalker. He knocks one barrel over, and I guess whatever’s in it is flammable, because when Fireball lets loose with his flamethrower, it creates a huge explosion.
Richards grabs a flare and goes off in search of Amber, who’s found burnt corpses by some lockers. Fireball corners her and informs her they’re “last season’s losers”, but Amber recognizes their name badges identifying them as the earlier “winners” who were supposedly living on a tropical island.
Fireball is about to flambé Amber, but Richards sneaks up from behind and yanks the hose from his tank. A panicked Fireball is easily overpowered, and ends up being blown up when Richards tosses his flare into the gasoline leaking from his tank. It’s a good end for a pretty good villain.
Also, it’s not often the bad guy’s last words are “I can’t fly! Cut to commercial!”
Richards quips, “What a hothead,” and the fans in the shanty town are now clearly on his side. Captain Freedom is called in, and he shows up in the control room, pissed off about the ridiculous getup he has on. I don’t blame him. He looks like a complete putz.
He goes off on Killian about being a true warrior, so Killian orders Sven (who also isn’t thrilled with Killian at the moment) to throw him out. But Sven hesitates.
In the studio, they pay tribute to the dead Stalkers with another dance number, but thankfully, we don’t see the whole damn thing this time.
In the control room, the team edits together footage of Richards and Captain Freedom fighting in order to give the show a “good” ending. I love clever little touches like this. Well, okay, they’re only clever compared to the rest of the movie, but still!
Back to Richards and Amber. It turns out they’ve been caught by the resistance, and Mic and Stevie turn up. As they talk, they see Killian on TV announcing the fight between Richards and Captain Freedom.
Freedom quickly kills “Amber”, and has a pretty nice fight with “Richards”, which he wins after shoving Richards onto some spikes. Back in the control room, things are being wrapped up as Richards (who is now finally on the same page as the resistance) and company get ready to kick ass.
Amber gives Mic some footage to broadcast, and after flirting with Richards a bit, it’s time for the finale. After yet another dance number, the teams are moving around in the bowels of the studio, while Mic prepares to enter the codes.
Killian begins the post-game show, while Richards and his team advance. Suddenly, the network’s signal is jammed, and the resistance message is broadcast instead. The audience turns on Killian, while Stevie and his team burst into the control room to stop them from interfering.
Richards and company show up in the studio, and a shootout ensues. Meanwhile, Amber is in the hallway, where she has a confrontation with Dynamo. He loses, but then again, so do we all, because he’s in his underwear. Either way, he gets electrocuted, and we bid farewell to the dumbest villain in the film.
After the shootout, everyone in the shanty town is watching as Richards confronts Killian, starting things off with a repeat of the “Hi, cutie pie” routine from earlier. Sven shows up, and in a rather odd moment, he walks out after admiring Arnold’s physique.
Speaking of odd moments, one of my favorite television edits is from this movie. After Sven leaves, Killian remarks that Ben looks pissed. But in the TV version, he says “You look pink, Ben.” The pink lighting near Arnold almost makes the edit work, but then comes the rest of the line, which is: “Believe me, you’ve got every right to be.”
God, sometimes watching a movie in its edited form can be just as rewarding as seeing it uncut.
Killian tries to justify the show as just giving the people what they want, to which Richards shoves him into a rocket sled and sends him down the tube. With nobody in the control room operating the sled, it careens out of control and smashes into the cola sign, which explodes in a huge fireball.
The shanty town crowd is thrilled, as is everybody else who’s been watching the show. And then Richards and Amber walk off together as the credits roll. For some odd reason, he holds her neck the same way he did when she was his hostage at the airport. Maybe it’s just his signature move.
Either way, there’s still more amusement to be had in the credits, as the ending narration for The Running Man game show plays over the last minute or so.
This film ended up making a decent chunk of change, and is damn good popcorn entertainment. It moves at a nice pace, and features great work from Richard Dawson. All in all, it’s definitely one of Arnold’s better movies.