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The Running Man (1987)

February 4, 2010

6/10 Lightning Rounds

The ultimate in Arnie guilty pleasures.

The Running Man takes place in the distant future of – wait for it – 2017 where a good cop has been convicted of a mass murder he didn’t commit. Because giving him the chair or locking his ass up is so 2010, he’s instead sent to appear on everyone’s favorite homicidal reality TV game show where he has to fight for his life against a slew of heavily armed opponents a la American Gladiators with Chainsaws and Lite-Brite Jumpsuits, clear his name and expose the government that tried to frame him in the first place.

By all accounts, this is not a very good movie. The dialogue is as cheesy as an Arnie movie from 1987, the costumes look like something out of Richard Simmons’ take on Mad Max, and the acting can be quite a freakin’ riot. But then again, that’s kind of the appeal to The Running Man, that and a premise which I actually think is pretty kickass.

Man, I remember seeing this in Middle School and thinking it was the. shit. Wasn’t quite sure why I never got the same response when I tried talking about it with wiser folk, but after seeing it again a year or so ago, I couldn’t help but smile and laugh at 12-year-old Aiden R. and how excited he used to get over this thing. Looking back, I’m not quite sure what it was exactly that drew me to The Running Man, but after all these years, it’s still a fun movie.

The reason this movie works more than it should is because it doesn’t take itself seriously. It totally plays up the Arnie appeal from back in the day by having old women call him “One mean motherfucker,” and giving him choice winners like, “I’ll be back,” before being sent into the game show, only to have the host reply, “Only in a re-run.” And I can’t help but grin like an idiot whenever I hear Arnie lose it and scream, “I hope you leave enough room for my fist because I’m going to ram it into your stomach and break your goddamn spine!

Too good. That was always my favorite clip back during the whole prank-call-people-using-the-Arnie-soundboard phase I couldn’t get enough of in High School.

But the best thing this movie has going for it is easily Richard Dawson as The Running Man’s evil host. Whoever thought it would be a great idea to get Dawson – the real-life host of Family Feud from ’76 to ’85 (thanks, Wikipedia!) – to play the bad guy and essentially do the same thing he’d made a career out of, only meaner, deserves a high-ten for that casting call. He’s really entertaining to watch and it’s ’cause of him that this movie carries any credibility whatsoever.

And bonus points for having Jesse Ventura and Jim Brown play two of the “stalkers” that are hunting Arnie down.

It’s weird, the more I write the more I’m having trouble finding the redeeming values of this movie, but what can I say, I’ve got a soft spot for it. Watching Arnie ham it up and whoop some ass while cracking shit one-liners is still good times in my humble opinion. No, it’s not the best Stephen King adaptation out there, and your brain’s not gonna get much of a workout, but The Running Man is a pretty amusing version of the future that’s apparently going to take place in seven years where, as far as I can guess, we all decide to vote the lead singer of A Flock of Seagulls into office.

So if you’re looking laughs and gore, grab a beer and saddle up, folks. The Running Man has heard your call and he is in a full-on sprint.

Oh, and one of the “stalkers” is this buffoon of a character – an obese opera singer named Dynamo that can harness electricity while grinding on chicks in his tightie whiteys. Easily one of the worst villains ever put to celluloid, but like I said, hilarious.

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 4, 2010 5:35 am

    hey Lighthead! Christmas Tree! Come on, kill me! Im here!
    man, the quotes from this used to get us through some dull lunchtimes at school

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