There is an eerily accurate satire and parody to The Running Man that wasn’t that prevalent when it was released but means a lot today. The idea of an extreme reality television show which results in murder and bloodshed has been done before but to say that this was released in 1987 but set in 2019, it is a bizarrely on-the-nose commentary on the state of entertainment today.
Maybe if they had the actual real-life situation we are dealing with today to draw from, this movie would be less of a generic Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle and more of a clever look at the extreme nature of entertainment but alas, this is more the former than the potential latter. So instead of a clever movie and a social commentary we get action, explosions, fighting and gory deaths.
None of this is terrible of course and many people are looking to an Schwarzenegger movie for exactly that however The Running Man hasn’t aged brilliantly. It delivers on all the elements you’d expect from a classic Arnie movie. He is cracking jokes after each death, he has a dead-pan wit which hits the funny bone occasionally and even delivers “that line” from Terminator. The issue is that we have seen much better from Arnie and this kind of science fiction movie before.
The script and story are painfully shallow. There is so much potential behind a killer reality TV show but it decides to go down too linear a route which offers little more than Arnie enters a room, kills a guy, enters another and repeats the process. The villains that he dispatches would also be great had the effects of the time not laughably dated them (particularly Erland van Lidth as Dynamo).
It also manages to veer too far away from the stark, desperate satire it could have been and is just plain silly in places. It never really strikes the right tone and the actors veer from menacing and serious to shockingly hammy. You can’t help but feel that there was a very good, intelligent script somewhere that has been watered down to create a classic Arnie vehicle.
If you want to capture the essence of an 80s action movie then The Running Man will deliver but you could find so much better, from Arnie himself particularly. This feels like there could have been something really special here but it went for a cheaper route.
Overall, a generic, silly 80s action movie when the potential could have delivered something much better. It has all the best aspects of an Arnie movie but delivered in a sub-par vehicle which never reaches it’s full potential.
Rating – 2.5
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