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Review The Running Man (1987): A classic through and through!

genre: action, science fiction, thriller






If there was a formula for making classics everybody would make one. Most of the time filmmakers can come close. But often it's a combination of the right story, right people and the right time who turn a film into one. In this case it's the story by Stephen King, the direction of Paul Michael Glaser, the phenomenon that is Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Eighties. Almost everything created in that time period was pure gold. 

Quite a lot is packed in The Running Man and events move along in an incredibly fast pace. There are little to no quiet moments in the film. Actually it's almost non stop action. Yet the film does manage to depict a dystopian world that seems like a true nightmare. Most people have very little to live for except to consume and watch their favourite game show The Running Man. In this show the constants are being chased and hunted by a special squad of killers. The twist is that the contestants are being presented as convicts and criminals while in truth they are innocents and freedom fighters. One of these innocents is Ben Richards played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. He is a former policeman who refused to murder innocent civilians. Arnold is at his best in this film. He looks and fights like a man who can defeat this special squad. And having him say those super dry one liners makes everything even more epic and awesome. I mean how can you go wrong with the following. " What happened to Buzzsaw? " Arnie's answer after having him cut in two: " He had to split ". It's undeniably funny and cathartic. 

Maria Conchita Alonso, Yaphet Kotto, and Jim Brown also add that special something to the film. Alonso starts out real annoying. But like many in this world she doesn't know any better. When she starts to get enlightened about things she does her best to redeem herself.  Kotto brings a level of seriousness to the events. Jim Brown is one the killers who is ruthless and cruel. While his appearance is short, it's intense enough. He gave some gravity to the ridiculous looking gladiators. 

I would like to think that Paul Michael Glaser also had a big hand in it to keep the film tight and compact. Arnold apparently had problems with Glaser since he approached the films like a TV Film where deeper themes weren't explored enough. Stephen King thought so too and wasn't real happy with the end result. But what were they expecting? If they had devoted more time on the world and the dystopia then perhaps there would be less action and therefore the film would have become slower. The super compact approach is exactly what makes everything digestible. Maybe one could argue about the action sequences and how they are choreographed and edited. But to be honest I can't say anything bad about it. Even so many years after I found it to be immensely satisfying.

Overall The Running Man is a classic through and through. Certainly a must own!




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