Bullet Points: The Running Man
It is Halloween today and when you think of Halloween and movies, you probably aren’t thinking about action movies.
You may be thinking of some classic Universal Monsters movies or maybe a slasher flick or possibly one of the films adapted from a Stephen King novel.
But what about an action movie based on a novel written by Stephen King? “The Running Man” was written by Stephen King under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman.
I would rank The Running Man second on my list of Arnold Schwarzenegger Favorites (Predator is my #1). So with that said it is with great pleasure I present my Bullet Points review of The Running Man…
- The Premise: The movie is set in 2019 and the future is not bright. The country is in a police state and the government controls/censors all forms of entertainment. Arnold plays Ben Richards, a cop who disobeys orders and is framed and is then wrongfully convicted of a crime as punishment for his disobedience. After he escapes prison with some members of an underground resistance, he catches the eye of Damon Killian (Richard Dawson) host of the #1 show on television, The Running Man. The Running Man is a futuristic game show that gives convicts a chance for freedom, but only if they can survive… that’s right if you lose this game show it is because you are DEAD. Richards is caught trying to leave the country and soon forced to compete on The Running Man.
- Perfection: I’m not sure there was a better option to play Damon Killian than Richard Dawson. With his acting and game show hosting background, Dawson had the necessary skills, but his portrayal of Killian was done to perfection. Just the perfect combination of egomaniac, showman and abusive boss. Dawson is one of the big reasons that I love this movie as much as I do. A great villain that would certainly rank on any Essential Arnold Villains list I’d write.
- The Stalkers: While Killian is the main villain, there’s no way he can physically combat Ben Richards on his own, but within the context of The Running Man game we get a variety of villains to combat Richards and his friends. There’s Buzzsaw, Subzero (played by Professor Toru Tanaka), Dynamo, Fireball (played by Jim Brown) and Captain Freedom (played by Jesse “The Body” Ventura). This cast of characters is very reminiscent of the over the top personalities in professional wrestling, especially back in the 80’s, and this no doubt adds to my love of this movie.
- The Runners: Richards does not have to combat the Stalkers on his own, he does get some help from his fellow prison breakers, Harold Weiss and William Laughlin (played by the incomparable Yaphet Kotto). Maria Conchita Alonso’s character, Amber Mendez, also finds herself a reluctant contestant of the game after she is caught trying to find out the truth behind the Ben Richards conviction.
The Running Man is a fun movie and call me crazy, but I like fun movies. Watching it today the 2019 futuristic setting is obviously not as futuristic feeling as it was back in the late 80’s but that is to be expected. This was at a time where Arnold could really do no wrong it was one hit after the other. Arnold was riding a wave of success and this movie was still 6 years away from the dreaded Last Action Hero that broke his blockbuster streak.
Here are a few more Bullet Points about The Running Man…
- I’ve Been There: I have empathy for Damon Killian when he’s on the phone and he mentions Gilligan’s Island and the person on the other end of the phone clearly doesn’t get the reference. Mick Fleetwood’s character Mic (wonder how they came up with his character’s name?) has a similar experience when he makes a Star Trek reference. Makes me think of all the times I make a pop culture reference that goes over people’s heads.
- Sven-Ole Thorsen: You may recognize Sven-Ole Thorsen from other Arnold movies like Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Red Heat, Raw Deal, Predator and even Twins. In The Running Man, Sven plays Sven the Security Guard. Wonder how they came up with his character’s name?
- Agnes: I’ve always wondered if Agnes, the elderly lady who was in the front row of The Running Man studio audience, was an homage to the old ladies who would sit in the front row of wrestling events back in the 70’s and get really into it.