Original release: November 13th, 1987
Running time: 101 minutes
Director: Paul Michael Glaser
Writers: Steven E. de Souza, Stephen King
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Richard Dawson, María Conchita Alonso, Yaphet Kotto
Movies sometimes have a funny way of reflecting not just our current zeitgeists, but also times still ahead of us. It’s only when we look back on them we recognise those parallels but at the time they’re made we only consider them to be crazy visions of a future that will never happen.
For example, back in the 80s could we ever imagine a time when America would be authoritarian police state or when reality television shows would replace all cultural activity, but that’s the future The Running Man, based on a story by Stephen King, predicts for us.
Set at a time when the global economy has collapsed, we’re introduced to Ben Richards (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a military pilot who refused to bomb a civilian area and as a result is convicted on false charges. After escaping from a labour camp he goes to his brother’s apartment but instead finds Amber Mendez (María Conchita) living there – the former occupant has been removed for “re-education”. When amber ends up turning him in, she’s shocked to see the media running false reports on a massacre at the airport she knows for a fact never took place.
Damon Killian (Richard Dawson), a vain and ruthless host for a gladiator-style television show The Running Man, spots him on the news and is determined to get Ben as a runner on the show to battle the “stalkers”. Ben will face death for a chance to earn his freedom, but it’s not a decision he arrives at easily.
With the government using all available forms of media – including television shows like The Running Man – to dumb down its population, they hope for people to bet against Ben winning and the odds are stacked against him…all in the name of entertainment.
Meanwhile, Amber now knows Ben has been set up and was telling the truth all along but when she tries to help, she’s captured and reluctantly becomes another contestant on the show, along with members of a resistance movement who are plotting to take the show off the air for good.
Although it all seemed rather far-fetched when it was first released, looking at The Running Man now it’s surprising to see how close it came to depicting our present time. With a weak global economy whose collapse is imminent, a nation degrading itself with celebrity culture and game shows and living under constant surveillance, it’s all a little close for comfort.
Still, it’s an action film with Schwarzenegger and it’s fun to watch as he disposes of the stalkers in every round while coming up with great one-liners, all delivered in his usual dry way. Next to The Terminator (1984), I think this was possibly one of his best roles and he reprises his most famous line – “I’ll be back”
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .