Genre: Action / Sci-Fi
aka: Battle Runner
Director: Paul Michael Glaser
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maria Conchita Alonso, Yaphet Kotto, Jim Brown, Jesse Ventura
The year is 2019. The finest men in America don’t run for President. They run for their lives.
The Running Man combines two of my favorite things from the 80’s, adaptations of a Stephen King story and an action film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Running Man was a novel that King published under his pseudonym Richard Bachman, it tells the story of a future where people are entertained by violent game shows on their television, including the gladiator-style one with the same title as this movie.
Of course the contestants doesn’t volunteer for The Running Man, instead they are portrayed as the criminals and scum of the earth even though that might not always be the case. And that’s not the case with Arnold Schwarzeneggers character Ben Richards, who know has to fight for his life and also find a way to prove his innocence from a crime he did not commit.
The concept of this film is excellent and frightening. Frightening because we are headed more and more into a society where entertainment over TV and the internet is becoming less and less concerned about protecting the ones involved. While we haven’t gotten to programs such as The Running Man yet, I would not be surprised if I lived to see a similar themed show in the future.
While this film could also work as an own film with the main plot as the center, the story does get a bit sidetracked as this is of course a vehicle for young teens in the 80’s to look and marvel at the fantastic action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime. It seems like there was nothing Arnie could do wrong in the 80’s and this is not an exception.
Of course he doesn’t really act well, and his portrayal of Ben Richards is not good even by his standards. I dunno if this was done on purpose to hide his acting skills, or lack of, but his love interest in this film played by Maria Conchita Alonso is even worse and just incredibly annoying. The bad guys however are colorful and fun in a typical 80’s style. The villain “gladiators” look like they could have been characters for the WWE (or WWF as it was back in those days) with names like Dynamo, Buzzsaw and Captain Freedom.
Director Paul Michael Glaser had done some TV work in the past and a few films I’m unfamiliar with and has mostly worked as an actor actually. He did create a fitting world for this film and did turn it into a fun (and cheesy) action ride. It is a weird choice as a director for this film, but a choice that seemed to work out in the end.
The Running Man is a fun 80’s action film, a film that could not have been redone in the same way today. It does however have a story that could be done more with an expanded upon, but with films such as Battle Royale already created later on I think the idea of remaking this would be unnecessary. This one is of course mainly now for fans of 80’s action and Arnold and that’s good enough for me!