Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Movie Review: "The Running Man" (1987)

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Movie"The Running Man"
Director: Paul Michael Glaser
Year: 1987
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 41 minutes

In 2017 after a complete economic collapse, the government has seized total control of the U.S., including all media outlets. A former military officer named Ben Richards (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who disobeyed orders to kill unarmed civilians, is framed by the government-controlled media for the mass murder of the civilians he refused to fire on. He is dubbed the Butcher of Bakersfield for this heinous "act." After an escape and a brief stint on the lamb, Ben is selected to appear on the country's most popular television show, The Running Man. This show sends contestants that are convicted criminals through a 400 square block game zone where they are hunted by network stalkers who's job it is to kill the contestants before time runs out, all in front of a live audience. Ben Richards must survive The Running Man if he ever hopes to prove his innocence.

Set in the dystopic future of 2017, which may have seemed far away when the movie first came out back in the 80's, but is now just a mere 1.5 years away, "The Running Man" is quite an inventive film, and luckily, we are no where near the horrible future this movie saw for us. Did they really expect big feathered hair and spandex suits to still be fashionable in 2017? We digress. In this future, the masses are placated by the government through the power of television (sound familiar???). They keep people watching exploitative television shows that prevents them from focusing on real issues or thinking to much at all (sound familiar???). As long as the masses are on their butts and in front of the TV set, they aren't out picketing or trying to make a difference. So hey, maybe they got this tidbit right about the future because seriously, is The Running Man any worse than "Keeping Up with the Kardashians?"

Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Ben Richards, a soldier who had the audacity not to follow orders that interfered with his personal moral code. His refusal to murder innocent people lands him in prison as he was used as a scapegoat. What the public sees are edited cuts of the incident as the government-controlled media manipulates the masses through selective reporting, painting Ben as the bad guy. Eventually, Ben winds up on this game show in front of millions of people. Participation is supposed to be voluntary, but the host of the show Damon Killion, played by Richard Dawson, blackmails Ben into participating. He threatens to put two of the men who helped Richards escape from prison in the show as participants in his place. These two men are political prisoners named Weiss, played by Marvin J. McIntyre, and Laughlin, played by Yaphet Kotto, who are members of a resistance attempting to overthrow the government. Of course, Killion breaks his word and puts Weiss and Laughlin on anyway, even after Ben agrees to participate. The live studio audience picks stalkers to chase down and kill the three men, which will win the audience member some prizes. You know how much people love free stuff! Each of these stalkers has their own gimmick, like a pro-wrestler would. Professor Toro Tanaka plays Sub Zero, a hockey-themed stalker that fantastically uses exploding pucks and a bladed hockey stick. Erland van Lidth plays Dynamo, a stalker that shoots electricity and sings opera in a hilarious twist of fate. Gus Wethwisch plays Buzzsaw, a chainsaw-wielding strongman who rides a dirt bike, because you know, dirt bikes and chainsaws go hand in hand. Former professional football player Jim Brown plays Fireball, who flies around on a jet pack and uses a flamethrower. Finally, Captain Freedom, played by former pro-wrestler and future governor (OMG THERE ARE TWO FUTURE GOVERNORS IN THIS MOVIE, LOL) Jesse Ventura, prides himself on killing with his bare hands and is the "final boss," so to speak.

Sure, all of the above descriptions sound little cheesy, especially considering this film takes place 1.5 years from right now as we are writing this review, but this is all part of its magic. In natural Arnold Schwarzenegger fashion, the "witty" one-liners he drops throughout this film (and really every film he is in, let's be honest) are fun and corny, but hey, that's why we all love him, right? There's a lot of good R-rated action in "The Running Man" and when mixed with an interesting story and an all too relevant message about freedom and government control, this film has the recipe to be an entertaining dystopic sci-fi film that is so, so very 80's.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 61%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?
One year ago, we were watching: "The Railway Man"

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