The Running Man (1987) (part 1 of 4)
The Running Man combines two of my favorite things: Stephen King and Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. Based very loosely on a novella that King wrote, Running Man tells the tale of one Ben Richards, a down and out family man who gets involved with a deadly game in order to win money to help his sick child. It’s a rather dark, dreary piece that King wrote under his Richard Bachman pseudonym. The story unfolds in a depressing yet gripping manner, but I find it pales somewhat in comparison to the glorious hunk of cheese that is the film based on the book.
The story was altered drastically to fit Arnold’s persona, and an element of satire was thrown in as well. Given that this is first and foremost an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, it goes without saying that the level of satire found here isn’t quite as successful as that in other action films of the day. It works fine, but when you stack it up against other movies in the genre, it falls flat.
In the film, Ben Richards is a cop who gets set up, and is blamed for a massacre when he refuses to fire on civilians. He escapes prison and falls in with some rebels looking to take down the establishment, in the form of a TV network run by Damon Killian (Richard Dawson). Written by the same guy who did Commando, this was Arnold’s first film after Predator, and it’s a prime example of what made his movies such huge hits. It’s relentlessly stupid, aggressively violent, chock full of cheesy humor, and a hell of a lot of fun. I give it 8 out of 10 rocket sleds. Let’s check it out.