Monday, 24 February 2014

The Running Man (1987)

The Running Man is a brilliantly 80s take on America's addiction to TV, so it's somewhat appropriate that it's directed by a TV star: Dave Starsky from Starsky and Hutch.  Paul Michael Glaser has made quite a daft film, with a definite Paul Verhoeven vibe, but is none the less great fun.  Preceding the likes of Battle Royale (2000) and The Hunger Games (2012), The Running Man is a gameshow (the world’s most popular TV programme) rather like Gladiators, except with more fatalities.

Originally penned by Stephen King, and adapted for the screen by Steven E. de Souza (Commando and Die Hard), the movie actually has more going on than you might expect; though I’m not sure how faithful the film is to King’s source material.  In a world of increased crime & violence, the government sees no option but to fight fire with fire, cracking down on criminality with belligerent and enthusiastic ruthlessness.  Of course they don’t care how many innocents are shot as long as they get their man; collateral damage eh?  As well as the more obvious sideswipe at The United States of Television, the totalitarian state also does a mean job in re-writing history a la 1984.  Naturally the media is crucial in enforcing this pseudo-reality so that the general public swallow everything.

Arnie is Arnie; a great action hero with some typically cringeworthy kiss off lines and lots of running.  Yaphet Koto is rather wasted as Arnie's friend who predictably gets thrown into the arena and suffers.  Maria Conchita Alonso is functional enough as the victim turn heroine/love interest, but the most interesting character is the TV presenter Damon Killian.  As presenter of the TV show The Running Man, he is smarmy, arrogant and convinced he is in the right, giving the people what they want.  Personified perfectly by Richard Dawson he really is what the film is worth watching for.  That and some cameos by Jesse Ventura, and bizarrely Mick Fleetwood and Dweezel Zappa!

By no means a fantastic film, but enough going on under the surface to prevent it from being completely brainless.  Apart from KIllian, the characters are all predictable and could be copy/pasted from any number of 80s actioners, but then that’s the joy of 80s Arnie, isn’t it?  But, well, you know, that’s just, like, er, my opinion, man.