The Running Man (1987) starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maria Conchita Alonso, Yaphet Kotto, Marvin J. McIntyre, Jim Brown, Jesse Ventura, Erland van Lidth, Richard Dawson directed by Paul Michael Glaser Movie Review

The Running Man (1987)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Running Man (1987)

Total Wipeout with Weapons

I don't know whether "The Running Man" was the first movie to give us a futuristic gladiatorial style competition but even now some 35 years after it was released it is still one of the most entertaining. And to be honest it is one of Schwarzenegger's better movies from the 80s which maybe down to him just having to dispatch one comic book style bad guy after another with a witty one liner for each kill. That's not to say that "The Running Man" is a good movie, it is cheesy, corny and watching it now seriously 80s despite being set in 2017 but for all the nonsense it is entertaining simple as that.

The year is 2017 and after economic collapse America has become a totalitarian society where the most popular thing is a gladiator style TV show called "The Running Man" where criminals run the gauntlet of bad guys in order to try and win a pardon. Ben Richards (Arnold Schwarzenegger - Predator), a cop finds himself set up for the murder of thousands and thrown in jail but even jail can't hold him as he and many others stage an audacious escape. But Ben's life on the run doesn't last long when he is turned in by civilian Amber Mendez (Maria Conchita Alonso - Predator 2) rather than being taken back to prison he is taken to Damon Killian (Richard Dawson), host of "The Running Man" who tricks Ben in to participating in return for two of his friends being spared. But Ben along with his friends and also Amber find themselves launched into the depths of the game and having to take on villains such as Buzzsaw (Gus Rethwisch), Fireball (Jim Brown) and Subzero (Professor Toru Tanaka).

Maria Conchita Alonso in The Running Man (1987)

Whilst the set up to "The Running Man" may see us in the year 2017, a dystopian future thanks to economic collapse and a government which doctors the truth to satisfy their needs, it isn't a movie about the future or political unrest. Nope this is a movie about one thing the imaginative "The Running Man" show where criminals run the gauntlet of comic book style villains in the hope of surviving and getting a pardon. It does make a semi interesting point about it being the most popular show on the planet with people watching every episode to watch all the action and violence but in many ways that is as deep as this movie gets.

As such whilst we get some early action such as a prison escape where the prisoners have explosive necklaces the main element of "The Running Man" is watching Schwarzenegger as Ben Richards along with a few others trying to run the gauntlet of the game show. So we watch Ben deal with these crazy villains, from Sub Zero who has an ice skating stick which is razor sharp to buzzsaw who uses chainsaws. And of course with these crazy villains we have Ben coming up with some crazy way of killing them, be it a razor wire necklace on one or a saw between the legs for another. Not all the villains work Dynamo must be it the worst bad guy in cinema's history but there is something comically good about all of this.

Now I did say that the villains were crazy comic book style characters but in fact the casting borders on the crazy as well. Former American fullback Jim Brown stars as Fireball, wrestler Jesse Ventura as Captain Freedom plus Professor Toru Tanaka as Subzero and these are some of the more sane casting choices as then you have the man mountain which was Erland van Lidth as the opera singing Dynamo. It gets crazier as Mick Fleetwood from Fleetwood Mac is cast as Mic the leader of the underground rebellion and you have Dweezil Zappa as one of his head fighters. It is a crazy line up but ironically the craziness matches the craziness of the movie itself.

But of course "The Running Man" is really a movie all about Arnold Schwarzenegger because as Ben Richards all he has to do is dispatch these various bad guys and deliver a trademark quip. There is no more to it than that but in many ways that is what Schwarzenegger did so well in the 80s that you don't want anything more than muscles, fighting plus tongue in cheek quip. As such to say there was no chemistry between Schwarzenegger and co-star Maria Conchita Alonso sounds like criticism but it isn't because you don't expect any and Maria basically fulfils the part of sexy sidekick.

What this all boils down to is that "The Running Man" is in many ways not a good movie, the dystopian future lacks depth and it is little more than an excuse for Arnold Schwarzenegger to dispatch various comic book bad guys. But it is simply entertaining and imaginative even when it is seriously corny with Arnie beating up bad guys and delivering one of his famous one liners.